A Bittersweet Symphony

One of my favorite songs from the '90s is The Verve's Bittersweet Symphony. Rythmically and melodically it's just cool - it's a great song.

"Cause it's a bittersweet symphony, this life
Trying to make ends meet
You're a slave to money then you die
I'll take you down the only road
I've ever been down
You know the one that takes you to the places
where all the veins meet yeah

...

Well I never pray
But tonight I'm on my knees yeah
I need to hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me, yeah
I let the melody shine, let it cleanse my mind, I feel free now
But the airways are clean and there's nobody singing to me now

No change, I can't change
I can't change, I can't change
But I'm here in my mind
I am here in my mind
And I'm a million different people
from one day to the next
I can't change my mind
No, no, no, no, no, no, no
I can't change
I can't change it..."

The message of this song is related to teaching we do in The Institute on the topic of "worldview" (simply, how we interpret our surroundings, events and the future for us and for the world) . Let's dig in a bit here.

I teach our students that the various worldviews can be divided into two categories based on how they depict the future.

Teleological worldviews depict the future as progressing more or less in a linear fashion with a grand, ultimate goal in view. The word "teleological" comes from the Greek telos, meaning the ultimate purpose, or end, for which something is made.

Examples of teleological worldviews include Christianity, Islam and Marxism. In each case, there is a force working through history to bring about a particular telos.

We also have many ateleological worldviews. An example in this category is Hinduism. Without going into great detail, in Hinduism the past and the future are cyclical, not linear.

Another example of an ateleological worldview held by many in the West is postmodernism. I've heard it called the "anti-worldview worldview".

For the postmodern mind, the past, the present and the future have no shape. For the postmodern, there's no grand, ultimate purpose being brought about by any force - God or otherwise. We're just bumping along in the universe - hoping not to hit anything too hard.

I think Bittersweet Symphony is a postmodern sigh of despair.

I like the song. But then, I'm not really singing the words, if you catch my drift.

Because for me - history's going somewhere. For the Christian, the future is the world set straight under the leadership of Jesus the Messiah. No more death, no more sorrow and no more despair. Revelation 21 and 22 sum it up nicely.

"I need to hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me, yeah"

I propose that the "sounds" they're looking for are right there in the Christian teleological message.

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