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Peter Hammill - "Comfortable" - Song Meaning

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meurglys0 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote meurglys0 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Peter Hammill - "Comfortable" - Song Meaning
    Posted: October 24 2010 at 16:41
"Comfortable" from Peter Hammil's Patience album released in 1983... I've been listening to this song for years and I always interpreted it as criticism of people performing acts of religion simply because they have become comforting customs and without considering these acts or the religion deeply and without real belief, for that matter. 

Today it struck me that there might be more to that: the writer considers religion and its acts total nonsense and is criticizing the kind of people described in the song because they do not evaluate them thoroughly. because if they did they would surely see the apparent nonsense of them. 
I used to think the writer was critical of this kind of people simply because they are pretenders; now I seem to think he is critical of them, not only because they are pretenders, but also because their pretensions conceal the nonsense of the religion in general.

Do you think this new interpretation I have come to is correct, or does it match with how you interpret the song. Better stated, how do you interpret the song?

Here are the lyrics:

http://www.sofasound.com/phcds/patlyrics.htm#7


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Harry Hood View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Harry Hood Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 24 2010 at 23:09
Why don't you ask him yourself. I hear he loves to correspond with fans.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote meurglys0 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 25 2010 at 03:35
Really? How do I contact him?
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TGM: Orb View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote TGM: Orb Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 25 2010 at 06:17
I think Hammill's too smart to be guilty of such banalities. In England, at least, there appears to be a sizeable portion of churchgoers especially in village parishes with no meaningful interest in Christianity or understanding of the traditions they perform - these are being criticised not just for their pretence but for the way they both perform blindly and devalue religious ceremony (which doesn't seem to be attacked for its own sake here).

At least, that's how I see it.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote meurglys0 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 25 2010 at 06:59
Originally posted by TGM: Orb

I think Hammill's too smart to be guilty of such banalities. In England, at least, there appears to be a sizeable portion of churchgoers especially in village parishes with no meaningful interest in Christianity or understanding of the traditions they perform - these are being criticised not just for their pretence but for the way they both perform blindly and devalue religious ceremony (which doesn't seem to be attacked for its own sake here).

At least, that's how I see it.



Yeah, that's exactly how I interpreted the lyrics previously. Bu the parts quoted below confused me...
the paradox is so apparent,
the sense absurd, but all too real;
the nonsense is arrant
but she just wants to feel comfortable.

...

On with the usual complacency,
on with the customary zeal;
she doesn't need to match a valency,
she just wants to feel comfortable.

...

Treading not on her illusions,
I will not walk upon my own:

......

These lines might indicate that, according to the author, the protagonist doesn't want to think deeply about it, she just goes along with the tradition, not even caring about the tradition, but if she did look into it she would see the "nonsense so arrant" of the religion... etc...






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Post Options Post Options   Quote refugee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 25 2010 at 11:13
Meurglys, I used to sing this song some Ö 20ó25 years ago (Iím getting old!), and I interpreted it the way you do now: both as a critic of (institutional) religion and a critic of the offhand way the religion is practiced. But reading the lyrics again today, I definitely feel thereís some Soren Kierkegaard here Ö Iím not an expert, and Iíve not had enough wine today to elaborate this further, but I will return (as I live, as I breathe, as I burn!).
He say nothing is quite what it seems;
I say nothing is nothing
(Peter Hammill)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote meurglys0 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 25 2010 at 11:18
Originally posted by refugee

Meurglys, I used to sing this song some Ö 20ó25 years ago (Iím getting old!), and I interpreted it the way you do now: both as a critic of (institutional) religion and a critic of the offhand way the religion is practiced. But reading the lyrics again today, I definitely feel thereís some Soren Kierkegaard here Ö Iím not an expert, and Iíve not had enough wine today to elaborate this further, but I will return (as I live, as I breathe, as I burn!).


I'm definitely waiting for you to return to the topic, for I'm not familiar with Kierkegaard...


Edited by meurglys0 - October 25 2010 at 11:18
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Post Options Post Options   Quote refugee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 25 2010 at 11:38
^ Argh! I wrote "critic" when I meant "criticism"! I need to think more about the song and make a new post tomorrow.
He say nothing is quite what it seems;
I say nothing is nothing
(Peter Hammill)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote refugee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 26 2010 at 04:30
Here goes: As Iíve said before, Iím not an expert on Kierkegaard. Even so, when I reread Comfortable and compare the lyrics to certain things I know about the great Dane, a few points strike me.

Kierkegaard studied theology, literature and philosophy. He was a firm believer in the Christian religion, but especially towards the end of his life he began to loathe the mentality of the Christian society. In 1854 (one year before his death) he wrote, The Christian society has liquidated Christianity by embracing the lie that Ďwe are all Christianí. (Not a direct quote, but quite close.)

I see a parallell in Comfortable: Her religion is based on habit, on spiritual and intellectual laziness. The "exisisting individual" that Kierkegaard stresses is absent in her religious beliefs.

Furthermore, faith is very different from common, everyday belief. We can not believe in something thatís proven (thatís sheer logic), and to believe in something probable, like, say, that the bus will ariive in five minutes, or that team A will beat team B in Champions League, doesnít affect our inner life. True religious belief is like hurling yourself out at 70 000 fathoms of water. Faith is, according to Kierkegaard, to believe in spite of the paradox.

And the paradox is apparent. Or rather: The paradoxes are apparent. To Kierkegaard, the paradox is that God became Man. To me, it is that God is supposed to be both good and omnipotent (and thatís one of the reasons why I can never be a Christian). Still, to be a true Christian, you need to believe in spite of the paradox. If you donít know the paradox, you can not believe. And if it still crosses your mind occasionally, it makes you feel uncomfortable.

I hope that I have expressed myself in an intelligible way. Surely there are members around who know much more about Kierkegaard and existentialism than I do, so feel free to correct me if Iíve gotten anything wrong.
He say nothing is quite what it seems;
I say nothing is nothing
(Peter Hammill)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote moshkito Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 26 2010 at 21:16
Originally posted by meurglys0

 
Treading not on her illusions,
I will not walk upon my own:
 
I think that the only two lines that you need to look at ... are these ... it's a bit like some poems that have a setup, or a story, and then the point arrives.
 
At times you have to tell a story ... or the point doesn't make it. Sometimes you have to setup an example, so the point makes sense.
 
I may have illusions, but I don't walk ON them ... or throw them around like Walter! I walk WITH them! It's who I am. And sometimes you can not tread on HER illusions, or you don't have a relationship!
 
I think it could easily suggest that he had an issue with a lady on these things ... I bet she said ... "you always sing your illusions, don't you ... why can't I have my own?" ... kind of thing to have him reach a stage that would ... create a poem about it. After all ... on Tuesdays, she does yoga!
 
It is a strange thing fo rme, but being a poet and writer makes it easy for me to understand a thing or two. It might not be right of course ... and one of the biggest issues is that sometimes your work is so open and out there honest that ... you're almost naked in front of the crowd, and there will always be an unffortunate moment or two when things might hit hard ... or not ... that causes a definite separation of feelings ... in this case between the 2 people ... because not accepting or working with your mate's ideas, opinions and illusions, is a divorce for sure ... and more hassle than it's worth.
 
And for someone like Peter ... it's hard ... but it gives us another album! ... sometimes I think we're such a sadist bunch ... !!!  ... SKIN ... is the album where he really talks about himself, btw. At least, the most visible for me. And Peter knows I said that, btw!


Edited by moshkito - October 26 2010 at 21:23
... none of the hits, none of the time ... you might actually find your own art, or self, and forego lousy heroes or Guru's!

www.pedrosena.com
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Post Options Post Options   Quote BaldFriede Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 27 2010 at 04:12
You all seem to forget about the second  verse. This is where the true meaninbg of the song lies. We are all in the situation of  uncertainty, faced by our own mortality and having to come to terms with it one way or the other.

BaldJean and I; I am the one in blue.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote refugee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 27 2010 at 05:56
^ The second? "A pound in the collection box Ö"? To me it makes more sense if you mean the fourth: "We stand on the brink of the Ultrapower Ö" "Wait for the mortal wound to heal Ö" I absolutely agree with your last sentence, but doesnít it more or less confirm what I wrote? The song deals with existesialistic questions. On the other hand, maybe I put too much stress on the "faith"-aspect. OK, whether you pick Kierkegaard, Heidegger or Sartre, they all come into play in these lyrics.
He say nothing is quite what it seems;
I say nothing is nothing
(Peter Hammill)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote BaldFriede Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 27 2010 at 06:26
Yes, of course I meant that verse.

BaldJean and I; I am the one in blue.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote meurglys0 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 27 2010 at 06:31
So what do you make of the lines:
when the abyss is adjacent...
what right have we gotto feel
comfortable?
Is the author being sarcastic here? Is it the words of the protagonist, the pretender? Is it the religion itself  speaking, in a way criticizing the lazy-non-thinking-traditional-pseudo-religous? [I take abyss as Hell by the way...]






Edited by meurglys0 - October 27 2010 at 06:31
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Post Options Post Options   Quote refugee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 27 2010 at 07:55
^ I read it like we are all equally close to the edge: the existential emptiness, the feeling of meaninglessness and lack of direction and purpose. Maybe thatís the definition of Hell. In that case, weíre already there.


Originally posted by BaldFriede

Yes, of course I meant that verse.


Thatís a relief! You had me worried there! LOL
He say nothing is quite what it seems;
I say nothing is nothing
(Peter Hammill)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote moshkito Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 27 2010 at 16:20
Originally posted by BaldFriede

You all seem to forget about the second  verse. This is where the true meaninbg of the song lies. We are all in the situation of  uncertainty, faced by our own mortality and having to come to terms with it one way or the other.
 
Fear ... is such a funny thing.
 
And yeah ... I think you are correct in your view on this one. And in this case it might even suggest a sickness or something that caused serious pain, and suggested otherwise ... like a doctor telling Peter to stop screaming so much and relax? ... can you see that? ... probably drive him nutz!
 
Of all his material the one that sticks with me the most is the one about out ... out ... out ... of everything, including the proper words to say one thing ... that is just ... the best ... and so true!


Edited by moshkito - October 27 2010 at 16:22
... none of the hits, none of the time ... you might actually find your own art, or self, and forego lousy heroes or Guru's!

www.pedrosena.com
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