Friday, October 12, 2012

Love may only be a feeling, but...

I dug up this brilliant video up today, after not having watched it for a good eight years. It's taken on a new double significance for me:

1) Blue Mountains yeeeeaaaah!!!

2) The landscape adopts an almost magical presence in the video, and the instrumental music is that of a classic power ballad, the lyrics of which typically seem to lament, celebrate, or just describe the superficial characteristics of love.

The brilliance of this music video is that juxtaposes these two characteristics; the magical landscape and the instrumental music of a genre which glorifies love; against the lead singer's lyrics, which describe the fact that "Love is only a feeling anyways". The lyrics describe the reality behind the illusion, while the music and the images uphold the illusion itself.

The first criticism which comes to mind is "well, of course it's an illusion, everyone knows that, but does it really matter?" I'll come back to that question.

But first a closer reading of the lyrics themselves helps the video to surpass this argument. The verses describe the beauty of being in love ("The state of elation that this unison of hearts achieved / I had seen, I had touched, I had tasted and I truly believed"), while the chorus describes the "truth" behind it ("Love is only a feeling/ Drifting away/ And we've got to stop ourselves believing /It's here to stay").

It's the flickering between the subject's complete immersion in the illusion (verse lyrics + landscape + instrumental) and the subject's understanding of the fact that it is an illusion (chorus lyrics) while still being positioned within the illusion (the instrumentals which back him up and the landscape he's singing in) which is really intriguing. The last lines of the song hint at this - "we've got to stop ourselves believing/ It's here to stay" - it suggests that the subject still believes, is still immersed within the illusion, even though he understands the supposed truth behind it.

So the video's positioning of the truth in the context of the illusion possibly suggests that an escape from the illusion, as much as we might strive for it is impossible. Louis Althusser (according to Zizek's "the Sublime Object of Ideology") is one intellectual who held this view; he posited that "a certain fissure, misrecognition, characterizes the human condition as such: by the thesis that the idea of a possible end of ideology is an ideological idea par excellence."

And, perhaps more importantly, would an end to ideology necessarily be a good thing? That's a whole other question for another day, but I'd say that in the case of love, definitely not.
Here's my sentimental liberal side coming out...
Although love might "only be a feeling", it is the basis of family and friendship - two incredibly important institutions that are crucial to upholding our society.  It makes many people happy, and gives meaning to countless lives; lives that would otherwise feel deeply meaningless. And for that reason, I'd disagree with the last lines of the song. As opposed to "We've gotta stop ourselves believing", I'd say:

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