Thursday, April 21, 2011

Earth Day: (Nothing But) Flowers

Talking Heads: (Nothing But) Flowers


One day some time ago, I was in New York City, and I overheard a remarkable conversation. Two young ladies, both vegan, were talking about an awful experience one of them had had recently. She had decided that she ought to get closer to nature by getting a pet. She chose a snake. She wanted to find vegan food for it, but she learned to her horror that it only ate live animals. Almost sobbing, she told her friend that she was forced to get rid of it. Now, these two young ladies might have gained from this a greater appreciation of the balance of nature and its delicacy. But no. They both agreed that snakes were immoral creatures because they ate meat.

This story gets to the heart of what makes the lyrics to so many potential songs for this week’s theme so “hippy-dippy”, as FiL put it so well. And (Nothing But) Flowers starts off this way. But then comes the line, “If this is paradise, I wish I had a lawn mower.” From there, the song becomes a lament for bygone suburban sprawl and technology. I don’t think that David Byrne meant the song to be a celebration of certain parts of New Jersey, however. Rather, Byrne is using irony to say that, yes, we as humans need to change our relationship with our planet, but this does not mean renouncing every footprint of human habitation from the planet. We must find a balance. Earth belongs to whales and dolphins, but also to human beings, and none of us would know how to live without our technology. Try not using any electricity in your house for 24 hours, and you will see what I mean. I think this is also what David Byrne is saying.

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