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   >> Interpretation
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pianocraft
(kook)
09/29/02 08:17 AM
All my trials Lord, shall be remembered  

Bowie's album Heathen is about a man's profound faith in late middle age.

It must be concluded that the title "Heathen" is ironic, with lines like, "All my trials Lord, shall be remembered." The speaker is no heathen.

Although nothing will change on earth, "everything has changed" because this man belongs to the kingdom of God.

Deeply alientated on earth, the main character's relationship with God grows deeper and deeper, as with all the Biblical heroes of faith.

Unfortunately, his intimate relationship with God is all he has left. His mom and dad, the girl next door, even the family puppy, are gone.

The protagonist is alone, living in a "terrible town." What he sees with his eyes, closes them tight with loneliness and tension.

All of this man's life, the girls of his dreams have gone.

In the twilight of his existence, as the sun goes down, and his light of his faith glows high, this hero can feel all worldly ties and earthly hopes die.

Because his life is littered with loneliness, the Heathen demands a better future, faithful unto death.



WildWind
(acolyte)
09/29/02 12:13 PM
Nice try, but new [re: pianocraft]  

How can you say he's completely faithful to God throughout the album when the doubt he feels is clear on songs such as "I Would Be Your Slave" and "A Better Future"? Heck, in the latter, he is flat-out threatening God. Doesn't sound like a devout believer to me.

WW

I like beer with my air.

ohramona
(crash course raver)
09/29/02 12:23 PM
Not that I agree with pc's sketch, but ... new [re: WildWind]  

Are you saying that a devout believer cannot question or be angry with that which they believe in? Priests are known to have crises of faith. Hell, even Jesus got pissed at God.



Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole
Not like you


pianocraft
(kook)
09/29/02 12:38 PM
Re: Nice try, but new [re: WildWind]  

A Better Future is one man's expression of love, need, and desire for his creator.

The line, "I just might stop wanting you" implies that he still does want him in his life.

The line "I might just stop needing you" implies that he does very much need God at this point.

The line, "I might just stop loving you, loving you, loving you" forces us to realize that the speaker at this point loves God. The love is underscored by the repetition.

The heathen clearly says that he walks and talks with God in this song.

Having forsaken all in this life and having been forsaken by all, the heathen has a right to demand that God fulfill his promises of a better future in heaven.



WildWind
(acolyte)
09/29/02 12:51 PM
Clarification new [re: ohramona]  

That is a very good point, ohramona. You're absolutely right that the devout can have crises of faith.

I suppose I see it differently because the doubt seems to grow throughout the album and I don't think he reaches a resolution on the side of unwavering faith. I also think that, although pianocraft is correct that his declaration that he'll stop wanting, needing and loving God suggests that he does still want, need and love Him, making demands of the Almighty is not characteristic of someone who is devout. The devout tend to defer to "God's will." They're not supposed to think they "deserve" anything from God but what He chooses to give them.

So, contrary to pianocraft's initial assertion that Heathen is the story of a man affirming his faith, I think it is a story of a man doubting - or perhaps losing altogether - his faith.

WW

I like beer with my air.

pianocraft
(kook)
09/29/02 01:06 PM
Re: Clarification new [re: WildWind]  

No wildwind, you are clearly wrong. The devout do trust God to fulfill his promises.

If God indeed makes a promise, the faithful deserve the right to pray with strong demands, that this promise comes true.

This is not an expression of doubt, but an expression of faith.



crimsondynamo
(kook)
09/29/02 01:17 PM
Re: All my trials Lord, shall be remembered new [re: pianocraft]  

In reply to:

In the twilight of his existence, as the sun goes down, and his light of his faith glows high, this hero can feel all worldly ties and earthly hopes die.


Shouldn't he be joyous to finally be with his Lord? Why does he sound so desperate and pained? Does he not want to leave his material world, or is he afraid to finally join his maker?



ohramona
(crash course raver)
09/29/02 01:18 PM
Clarification: Who needs it? new [re: WildWind]  

In reply to:

I don't think he reaches a resolution on the side of unwavering faith


No he doesn't, and isn't that a wonderful thing? How content are those of us who accept uncertainty, who don't need resolutions of unwavering faith, and everything sewed up in a neat and tidy package. I too, think Heathen is about a person having a crisis of faith, which I talked about a bit here. Only I think his crisis resolution involves accepting that he's not going to have the answers to all the big questions of life, faith, and philosophy. Maybe not here in this life anyway.

For in truth, it's the beginning of nothing
And nothing has changed
Everything has changed

For in truth, it's the beginning of an end
And nothing has changed
Everything has changed


I think that these lyrics indicate how nothing tangible has altered. The Heathen's perceptions and knowledge have altered causing the shift in how he sees things that are just as they were before he changed.




Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole
Not like you


strangeDivine
(kook)
09/29/02 01:42 PM
Needing is not believing new [re: pianocraft]  

Everyone will see what they want in a work of art so no one's interpretation is really wrong. But, I don't think that just because someone feels, even desperately, that they need "God" or something greater in their life that that alone is any kind of confirmation in their mind that there is something greater. I think almost everyone has felt a strong need for there to be something more behind this seemingly senseless universe, that is human nature. In songs like I would be your slave, Bowie is literally begging God/gods/higher power/whatever to reveal hirself to him and he would give anything for it. This doesn't suggest to me that he has any great degree of faith because faith by definition is believing in something without needing proof. Anyway, agnostics and athiests can be very spiritual people.

In America sex is an obsession, in other parts of the world it is a fact.
Marlene Dietrich



WildWind
(acolyte)
09/29/02 02:56 PM
What is "devout"? new [re: pianocraft]  

In reply to:

[pianocraft]The devout do trust God to fulfill his promises.


They trust that He will fulfill his promises as He sees fit. They do not demand it and toss out accompanying threats.

Anyway, I suspect we'll go in circles, so I'll leave it at that.

ohramona, I'm not making a judgment on whether it's good or bad that he doesn't resolve his crisis of faith, but I am suggesting that someone who has consistent doubts and fails to resolve them cannot be considered devout. It's a matter of definition, I suppose. I tend to associate the word "devout" with unwavering faith.

In reply to:

[ohramona]Only I think his crisis resolution involves accepting that he's not going to have the answers to all the big questions of life, faith, and philosophy. Maybe not here in this life anyway.


Yes, and that is what makes him no longer a devout man of faith, but instead an "infidel," a "freethinker," indeed, a "heathen."

WW

I like beer with my air.

ohramona
(crash course raver)
09/29/02 03:10 PM
Re: What is "devout"? new [re: WildWind]  

In reply to:

Yes, and that is what makes him no longer a devout man of faith, but instead an "infidel," a "freethinker," indeed, a "heathen."



I agree so much with this statement, that it looks exactly like what I said in my post that I linked to above. I forgive you entirely if you didn't go back and read it.

I'm not making a judgment, either. I think crisis in and of itself is good because it leads to change. Well, if one wants to attain or maintain mental health it does.

In reply to:

someone who has consistent doubts and fails to resolve them cannot be considered devout



I've got no idea about this, being a devout atheist with no doubts myself. But this reminds me of a conversation I had with a psychotic relative recently (yes, my relative is truly psychotic -- no, I'm not saying you are). He described to me a continuum of faith (that he and God had discussed), with people with absolutely no doubts about the existence of a supreme being at one end, and complete atheists like myself at the other. I agreed with him that most people must lie somewhere in between. Funny, how the crazies can make so much sense.



Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole
Not like you


ziggywombat
(cracked actor)
09/30/02 01:03 AM
doubt is par for the course new [re: ohramona]  

i don't really think the two ideas are mutally exclusive. everyone, no matter what thier beliefs are, come to doubt them at some point, especially in times of grief and crisis, like bowie's heathen seems to be in the midst of.

and there's a difference between beliving in god and thinking he's doing a good job. i think that's what a better future is about, the speaker definately belives in god, otherwise why talk to him? beliving and having faith in can be seperate i think.

this is my first serious foray into the scary world of the interpretation forum, be nice to me .

you're like a one legged man in an ass kicking contest, you just can't win!

WildWind
(acolyte)
09/30/02 07:53 PM
The blind leading no one in particular new [re: ohramona]  

In reply to:

[ohramona]I agree so much with this statement, that it looks exactly like what I said in my post that I linked to above. I forgive you entirely if you didn't go back and read it.


OK, it all makes sense now. I did read the linked post, but, I will admit, not thoroughly, and clearly not well enough. Miscommunication is a reality in this forum.

In reply to:

[ziggywombat]and there's a difference between beliving in god and thinking he's doing a good job. i think that's what a better future is about, the speaker definately belives in god, otherwise why talk to him? beliving and having faith in can be seperate i think.


I agree with this, but would argue that those of "devout" (there's that word again) faith would look down upon those who supposedly "believe" but yet don't have "faith." Those who doubt that God will do the right thing, who feel like they have the right to ask for special favors, who make demands on their God would be considered by most God Squads as "infidels," "freethinkers," indeed, as "heathens."

When Bowie has done this kind of commentary in the past (e.g. "Saviour Machine," "Look Back In Anger"), I don't believe he's been criticising belief or even faith, but rather he's been criticising blind faith. I've still not figured out whether Bowie is making a judgment here, that is, whether he thinks it's a positive that his character moves into a place of doubt, but that's definitely what the character is doing.

WW

I like beer with my air.


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