Sunday, November 16, 2008

¡Viva la vida !

How do you get acquainted with a new CD? Do you listen to it from first song to last and then over again from the top? Do you set your CD player on "shuffle?" When I have a new CD, I instantly get aurally addiction to one or two selections and listen to them over and over and over again ... practically ad nauseam, sometimes ignoring the other tracks for months. I'm sure this says something about my personality, but let's not delve too deeply there, gentle reader, OK?

I don't follow the rock scene very closely and the British group Coldplay was just a name to me until my husband recorded their televised concert. Watching it with him, I recognized the song "Clocks." Then we saw that fantastic movie Young@Heart, in which one of the chorus members sings "Fix You." The song haunted me, so I searched for it on YouTube and then found "In My Place" and "Clocks" and soon became a Coldplay fan. Last week I found "Viva la Vida" on YouTube and ran out to get the CD. I'm currently in the play-my-favorite-song-ad-nauseam phase...

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing:
"Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!"

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

I hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can't explain
Once you go there was never
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world

It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in.
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn't believe what I'd become

Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

I hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can't explain
I know Saint Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

I hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can't explain
I know Saint Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world


I have this fantasy of constructing an ESL lesson around "Viva la vida." Powerful images cascade one after the other, and the lyrics are replete with idiomatic expressions (give the word, roll the dice, puppet on a string), biblical allusions (pillar of salt, head on a silver plate, Saint Peter), and Western Civ references (Long live the king! Roman cavalry, Jerusalem, missionaries). Plus the pulsing, energetic rhythm. Would be a fun class, I think!

If I had to hazard an interpretation of the song, I'd say that it seems to express Lord Acton's famous dictum:
“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."
The introspective narrator who used to rule the world admits that he wasn't the best of rulers: never an honest word ... which is maybe why St. Peter won't call his name when he reaches the Pearly Gates. Oh who would ever want to be king? he moans, now that his kingdom is crumbling. But when all that power was within reach...what a temptation! Even Jesus was tempted by it, according to the evangelists .

According to a Wikipedia article, the title Viva la Vida, was inspired by a painting by Frida Kahlo, a canvas that just screams red. Have to meditate on that one...

7 comments:

  1. I've noticed that you have several posts without comments, so I thought I would say that I really appreciate your keeping the issues surrounding war and torture in front of us. They are grave issues and damage the world in ways that will be hard to fix.

    But we need to ponder them and hold them in the Light all the more for that.

    I was happy to hear Pres-Elect Obama say that he will close Gitmo.

    and btw, I also get addicted to one or two songs that I play over and over. Since I use public transportation, I am often in a position to listen to the same song for a half an hour or more!

    :D

    cath

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  2. Hi cath,

    Thanks for leaving a comment. It's good to know someone's reading :-)

    There are big doings with regard to Guantanamo...5 Algerian detainees ordered released today. Next Monday the Uighurs will have another hearing. A federal judge already ordered them to be released into the US, but the administration blocked it. Hopefully, the judge's original decision will prevail.

    Chuck Fager has a program for restoring our country's moral standing:
    http://quakerhouse.blogspot.com/2008/11/to-end-torture-start-now.html

    I'll do a blog entry on it soon.

    Speaking of music, have you discovered Pandora radio?? You can create your own radio stations!

    http://www.pandora.com/

    Peace and hope.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for the link to Pandora.

    I have the book of poems written by prisoners at Gitmo (the poems that were allowed to be published, that is). I'm a poet, myself, and I've decided to add one poem written by or about various aspects of war and peace whenever I read my own work.

    "Poems From Guantánamo" ed. by Mark Falkoff, University of Iowa Press, 2007.

    cath

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  4. Yes, I have Poems from Guantánamo.
    The authorities would not allow the original Arabic versions of the poems to be published, lest they be some sort of "code." And the translators were not necessarily the most experienced in Arabic. The attorney who fought to get the poems out, however, really did a heroic job.

    Where do you read your poetry?

    ReplyDelete
  5. I read my poetry in a variety of places--organized poetry readings, open mic poetry readings, peace and justice events, sometimes I read it for friends at dinner. :)

    I'm a refugee worker/advocate. In 2007, I organized a poetry reading to commemorate World Refugee Day. It was a great time with music provided by refugees, too. It was the first time people in my city (conservative, midwest) had any sort of event for WRD. In 2008, another group took up the task and we had even more on the program.

    Thanks for asking.

    cath

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  6. I admire your mission, you have stolen a motto of someone else. I beg that you will release it an redirect your site.... This is not yours to use... in 1852 another institution began using this - and for very good reason, and after much hard work. Stand down in the interest of what it right.

    Megan McCaffrey meganmccaff@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Megan,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Pax et lux, even according to Tufts University, is an aphorism, or an adage, a terse saying expressing a commonly held truth. I was not aware that aphorisms were subject to copyright.

    My son attends Tufts University and it was when visiting that institution and seeing the seal that I was inspired to use the motto as the title of my blog.

    I will contact Tufts and inquire if the university does indeed reserve to itself alone the right to use the aphorism.

    ReplyDelete

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