The Irish playwright, author and poet Oscar Wilde (1864-1900) said in an 1889 essay, “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.”
Today’s selection is a song I have heard several times on random plays and when I heard it this morning I wanted to know a little more about it and the band that created it.
In the music video for “Philosophia,” a song by the Irish band The Guggenheim Grotto, this quote is illustrated as the band shares its impressions of what it takes to be a work of art. And scenes in the film, created by San Francisco, California, USA-based Hannah Ariel Ross, mimic paintings. One viewer of the video on YouTube commented that one segment (starting at 1:45) resembles the Le Chef d’oeuvre ou les Mystères de l’horizon by the Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte (1989-1967). I can’t name any others, but several shots really remind me of artworks I’ve seen before.
“When we’re young we set our hearts upon some beautiful idea
Maybe something from a holy book or French philosophia
Upon the thoughts of better men than us we swear by and decree a
Perfect way to end the war of ways the only way to be a
Work of art, oh to be a work of art
But in time a thought comes tugging on the sleeve edge of our minds
Perhaps no perfect way exists at all, just many different kinds
Oh but if it’s just a thing of taste then everything unwinds
For without an absolute how can the absolute define
A work of art, oh to be a work of art”
“Philosophia,” by The Guggenheim Grotto.
Unofficial lyrics retrieved from SongMeanings.com.
The term philosophia comes from the Ancient Greek, meaning “love of wisdom.” With that inborn love, we come “tugging on the sleeve” of our elders, eager to learn from them. But we also comprehend from societal signals early in life that we must be like works of art: perfect, something to be admired… from a distance. The implication is we have to be the best, the brightest, the most talented if we are to be loveable. So we internalize these unrealistic expectations to our detriment, always striving for the immaculate and usually failing unless we manage to overcome historical patterns of unhealthy attachment.
Art can be messy, ugly, broken, just like most of us feel at many points in our lives due to these pressures, and I feel like that’s what the band is saying in the song. I love how the brief story develops, though, as they sing, toward the end, “Perhaps no perfect way exists at all, just many different kinds.” The line is a powerful message of illumination, clarity and inclusion for a very divided world.
“Philosophia” comes from … Waltzing Alone (2006), the band’s first full-length album. Kevin May and Mick Lynch formed The Guggenheim Grotto as a duo in 2003, joined later by drummer and producer Shane Power. In 2013, Lynch and May signed to a record label and continued their partnership as Storyman, a band that remains active today.
In April 2007, “Philosophia” was one of those single-of-the-week giveaways the iTunes Store used to offer. I never saw this one and only heard the track for the first time recently, but used to seek those freebies out as a way to discover new music. I would also pick up cards with the free download codes from Starbucks when they offered those, around the same time.
Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.
Here is the music video from The Guggenheim Grotto’s official YouTube channel: