birdsong vs. plastic bag // austere beauty for tortured souls // song lyric review

“Blackbird, don’t sing,” goes the refrain of Finland’s this year’s Eurovision song. While the singing of a blackbird is a common trope in poetry and song lyrics, symbolising ultimate beauty that soothes the soul, it is perfectly understandable why the lyric speaker of this song wishes to hear none of it.

It is a common phenomenon, that surface tension between things pure and impure: we’ve all at some point hated the sound of laughter when we ourselves have been in pain, or had appetite only for extremely unhealthy things on a hungover morning.

Despite this familiarity we may wonder why a released prisoner immediately turns back to crime or why an alcoholic just can’t bear being sober. It’s the exact same reason as why modern world has such hatred for anyone who eats quinoa. An unhealthy world cringes at the thought of healthy; impurity can’t bear contact with purity; anguish cannot touch beauty: all above examples are different manifestations of the exact same thing.

When the tortured soul cannot turn to beauty for comfort and relief, it must seek other ways to lighten its burden, and often this means being in the presence of something it can resonate with. The roaring of a stormy sea might be a better way to drown out the sound of one’s thoughts than a harmonious music of any kind.

And then even an ugly thing can have a quality of lightness about it, like the plastic bag in this deeply profound scene in American Beauty. This is more accessible than a conventional thing of beauty, but soothes the soul all the same.

Asking the bird not to sing is, as much as birdsong is traditionally a metaphor for hope and beauty, an absolute statement of hopelessness–like in the most depressing of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales, when Erendis sends away the elven birds that sang on her wedding night, the kingdom knows for sure they no longer have a queen. There comes a time for everyone, at some point, when there is no use seeking a distraction that would comfort them, and all that can be done is to withdraw, send away the songbirds, and await in silence for better times.

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