[In the past, I've written short blurbs for each of the year's 100 Songs. Some of these "short blurbs" were actually thousands of words long, but you get the idea. This year, sadly, I didn't have time to do that. But I still have a lot to say about almost all of these songs. So I'm just going to start writing. This is one of a still-undetermined number of essays. Maybe I'll find something to say about all 100 Songs. Maybe there will just be a handful of these. I'll try to write one every day, but I make no promises. Also, they will be in no real order. In case it gets buried, the original 100 Songs for 2011 post, with links, can be found here.]
(33) Craig Finn - "One Single Saviour" (Live @ Wits)
I turned my back on the business
I quit picking up shipments
Pretty sure we're all gonna die
I just finished Don DeLillo's End Zone. Here's the synopsis from the back of the book:
At Logos College in West Texas, huge young men, vacuum-packed into shoulder pads and shiny helmets, play football with intense passion. During an uncharacteristic winning season, the perplexed and distracted running back Gary Harkness has periodic fits of nuclear glee; he is fueled and shielded by his fear of and fascination with nuclear conflict. Among some of the players, the terminologies of football and nuclear war - the language of end zones - become interchangeable, and their meaning deteriorates as the collegiate year runs its course.I'm fascinated by Cold War nuclear paranoia because of how foreign it seems. Even the vocabulary involved, the language of mutually assured destruction, seems to belong only in science fiction. The idea of rival superpowers controlling the fate of the entire world, shadowy figures with their fingers on The Button ... it was never a part of my reality. It's alien. The first Russia I knew was nothing but breadlines. The first America I knew was nothing but partisan bickering. Neither seemed to have the ability to destroy all life as we knew it. I understood that, one some level, they still did, and they still do. The technology still exists. But the conventional wisdom had shifted. We had stepped back from the brink.
End Zone was published less than a decade before I was born. It wasn't that long ago, but that feeling, the precipice of total annihilation, the idea that entire cities could be wiped out in seconds, somehow seems impossible now.
I pulled the shades on the sunshine
Now it's just me time
I'm pretty sure we're all gonna die
I may have missed out on Cold War nuclear paranoia, but, growing up, I still believed the world could end at any minute. My cleansing fire would come not from the atom, but from Jesus. The Rapture was fast approaching, and while Jesus said, "But of that day and hour no one knows," that simply meant that it could happen at any time. My world was filled with people who believed in the end of the world as a very real and immediate proposition. I don't really hang out with many people who feel that way anymore.
We all made fun of Harold Camping's Rapture in 2011, and I'm sure we'll all make fun of the Mayan Apocalypse in 2012. The end of the world is now the easiest joke. In a way, mocking end times prophecies is kind of a reverse Pascal's Wager. If you're wrong, no one will ever be able to call you on it. While I'm sure there are studies out there showing that a shocking number of Americans believe in the Rapture, those same Americans fully expect to wake up tomorrow in the same world they left today.
And yet, everyone seems to believe the world is ending all the time. It's the one thing we can all agree on. We just argue about whose fault it is. Republicans. Democrats. The rich. The poor. Corporations. Unions. Christians. Muslims. The terrorists. The military. The police. Gay people. Straight people. Pretty much every single race or ethnicity. Everyone is destroying everything.
We all believe the world is ending all the time. But ... eventually. There is no good demarcation line for the point at which decay becomes destruction. The world will end so slowly that we probably won't even realize it.
In "One Single Saviour," Finn's narrator understands our eventual apocalypse. His "we're all gonna die" is not screamed in a blinding panic, over the din of the sirens. It sounds ... tired. Our doomsday scenario has been reduced to a fight against entropy, a fight we're destined to lose. An eventual death might be preferable to an imminent death, but the fact is that we're still talking about death, death in a slowly crumbling world.
With that as a backdrop, Finn's narrator decides that all we're left with is ... optimism.
Deliver us, Lord, from our anxiety
As we wait in joyful hope
It is not for us to decide if that makes sense. When faced with the specter of our own death, whether tomorrow or in a hundred years, the only useful response is, "Well, yeah, but I'm not dead yet." Until then, someone has to pick up those shipments.