Joel vs. Benedict
Posted by aogWednesday, 14 December 2005 at 08:27 TrackBack Ping URL

Peter Burnet over at the Brothers Judd has a post about a speech by Pope Benedict XVI, the gist of which is

Being good does not mean missing out on a good time or that you are boring, Pope Benedict XVI yesterday insisted.

That’s a sentiment I can agree with (even as an atheist I’m warming to this Pope). It has always seemed to be a major contradiction of our age that as the space of possible amusements and activities has grown, the culture has increasingly emphasized a narrowing range of physical pleasures, particularly sex, as the primary if not only source of real fun. Is it a retreat from overwhelming choice or just toxic waste from the attack on civilization from the MAL?

In any case, the post reminded me of the BIlly Joel song Only the good die young and how much I’ve always hated that song. It had been latched in to my brain recently for other reasons and Benedict’s speech really crystalized why I despised it. The key phrase was

That stained glass curtain you’re hiding behind, never lets in the sun

This is, of course, precisely the monomaniacal viewpoint Benedict was speaking too, as if having sex is the only possible source of fun or lightness in life. Nowadays I just feel sorry for people with such a cramped outlook. Not for them are the profound joys to be found in so many other places and ways. The song really epitomizes a common puerile attitude that signals a personality I will inevitably find very annoying.

This of course ties in to the thesis that it was the suppression of the sexualization of human culture that permits the emergence of technological civilization, that cultures where rutting is truly the primary source of fun can’t form the more complex social arrangements and sublimations that form the social infrastructure required. Could the story of the Garden of Eden be a metaphor for the emergence of such a culture among the tribes that would become the Jews?

Comments — Formatting by Textile
cjm Wednesday, 14 December 2005 at 14:06

if you take the song as being meant as emblematic/generalized then yes it’s as you say. but i always just took it to be aimed/about one specific person who is leading an overly restricted life. keep in mind that both ends of the spectrum are extreme :)

funny, but this is one of the few billy joel songs i still like, xx years later.

Andrea Harris Sunday, 18 December 2005 at 07:48

“i always just took it to be aimed/about one specific person who is leading an overly restricted life.”

In that case it’s even worse, in that it becomes the rant of a horny guy badgering a good young woman to just break down and “have fun” his way. Lots of men seem to think that’s funny or no big deal (or like you, somehow necessary), but having been the focus of such treatment myself I can tell you it can run the gamut from annoying to downright abusive.

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