Saturday, January 15, 2005

A rant about "The Return to Innocence"

Do you remember Enigma's 1994 hit song The Return to Innocence? (You do? Serves you right. That was more than ten years ago! I hope you start feeling old and decrepit, the same way I do.)

I rather enjoyed it at the time, and in fact I still do, but recently as I happened to hear it again I paid attention to the lyrics, which perhaps I hadn't done before. And I found plenty of rantworthy stuff in there.

"Love - devotion./ Feeling - emotion." Aren't feelings and emotions pretty much the same things? Well even if they aren't, I'm not going to bother finding out the difference and wondering what sort of painfully subtle effect is supposed to be conveyed by that oh-so-fancy juxtaposition of feeling and emotion.

"Just look into your heart my friend/ That will be the return to yourself/ The return to innocence./" Whoever wrote this seems to have a seriously rose-tinted view of human nature. Correct me if I'm wrong, but most people are not exactly saints and are not really particularly innocent. If they look into their hearts they will perhaps see many good and positive things, perhaps even some shreds (or maybe shards) of innocence here and there, but they will also see impressively large amounts of seriously messed-up shit which they cannot have helped accumulating along their way through the big sordid mess which we are pleased to call life. If you really want to return to innocence, a thorough brainwashing and plenty of mind-altering drugs might be useful first steps, but a look into your own heart probably isn't. As for "the return to yourself", heh, I think that by definition you can't really get away from yourself. If you try, that merely means that "yourself" is no longer the same thing (or in the same place) that it was five minutes ago. Thus, as you can't get away from yourself, you can't return to yourself either -- you are already there (or, better yet: you are already it (er, you (oh well, whatever))).

"Don’t care what people say/ Follow just your own way". Recommended by nine out of ten fascists, sociopaths, demagogues, and assorted other people whom you probably weren't used to thinking about as desirable role models.

"Just believe in destiny." How is this going to help? Surely a strong enough belief in destiny must encourage me to just sit and wait for things to come my way. After all, if they don't, this just means that they weren't destined to, so it's just as well that I haven't bothered to do anything about it as I would have been doomed to fail anyway.

"Don’t give up and use the chance/ To return to innocence". The choice of compulsive gamblers worldwide. The "return to innocence" probably refers to the state after they have gambled away everything they had, including the underwear, and end up lying on the ground buck naked, whimpering, and curled up in a fetal position. You just can't get any more innocent than that, can you? (If yes, I don't want to hear about it.)

OK, maybe I'm overdoing the sarcasm a bit and maybe I'm being a bit too harsh on them. Maybe I'm just not willing to play along at the moment, and if I were the lyrics might have begun to make more sense. And maybe the lyrics aren't even trying to mean anything or say anything; maybe they are just intended to sound nice and, when sung, to make a nice accompaniment to the instruments (and indeed they do, as far as I am concerned). But I really, really dislike this sort of vapid, vacuous, slippery stuff (which I'm afraid is rapidly proliferating nowadays) which seems to be so deep and fancy at first sight but which then somehow dissolves into thin air as soon as you try to touch it and look it up close. There's too much of that nowadays, and in areas where it really shouldn't be any (such as politics and the economy, cf. the book How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World), that one ends up growing very impatient with it and is then prone to overreact even in situations where the vacuous slippery things are relatively harmless, such as in the lyrics of pleasantly-sounding new-agey songs.

P.S. I'll say one thing in favour of The Return to Innocence, though: I definitely like the video a lot. Showing scenes from the life of a peasant couple in reverse order, from old age to youth, was really a neat idea. Seeing that video I can almost understand those people who idealize the rural life (although I of course realize that, from a sober point of view, the rural life has relatively little to recommend itself and is probably rarely idealized by those who actually live it).


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