The Personalist Project

Concepts like “Golden Oldies,” “Classic Rock,” even “Early Rock’n’Roll” certainly are nebulous and imprecise nowadays.  If you look up such titles on radio and TV stations, you often find song collections from the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s—for cryin’ out loud!  But I, who came of age in the days of real classic rock (Elvis and the Beatles), and who lost all track of pop music after 1972 (when I graduated from college) know that genuine “early rock,” real “golden oldies,” means the late 50’s and early 60’s.  I reject any other definition as an abuse of the English language.

Now, having settled the historical question (admittedly by subjective “Fiat”), let us go on to see what we can learn from the “classics.”  In June of 1960, Connie Francis had the first of her three #1 hits (in the USA, Norway, Australia, etc.) with “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool.”  The tune is catchy and the lyrics quite relevant to (and illustrative of) the problem of false attachments, “sham” forgiveness, or being manipulated through neurotic guilt or classic, co-dependent reaction to wrong.  It would be silly to deny that there are such problematic relationships, so let’s illustrate them and then investigate how to get beyond them if possible.  Connie Francis sings:

The tears I cry for you, could fill an ocean,
But you don't care how many tears I cry.
And though you only lead me on and hurt me,
I couldn't bring myself to say goodbye.


'Cause everybody's somebody's fool,
Everybody's somebody's plaything.
And there are no exceptions to the rule,
Yes, everybody's somebody's fool.

Stanza 2:

I told myself it's best that I forget you,
Though I'm a fool at least I know the score.
Yet darlin' I'd be twice as blue without you,
It hurts but I come runnin' back for more.

Repeat Chorus

Stanza 3:

Someday you'll find someone you really care for.
And if her love should prove to be untrue,
You'll know how much this heart of mine is breaking.
You'll cry for her the way I’ve cried for you.

Repeat Chorus

This certainly expresses a neurotic attachment and dependency. The “lover” (in quotes, since this is not genuine love) sees clearly how self-destructive it all is, yet can’t break out of the relationship emotionally. This disconnect between the understanding and the heart is the center of the neurosis. The relation is being treated as an absolute on the affective level. Though with the head the “lover” knows this is wrong, she can’t extricate herself because emotionally she has no where else to go: she’s stuck on a false absolute and no amount of mere reasoning will get her unstuck.

Not to be discriminatory, let’s look at a similar dependency from the male point of view. In 1963, Marty Robbins had his 10th #1 single on the country charts (3 weeks at #1 and 23 weeks on the charts—I do hope the reader appreciates the classic historical context; I feel it’s wrong to philosophize in a vacuum!) with “Beggin’ to You.” The lyrics, somewhat difficult for a man to ponder in his heart (though he should be equally repulsed by the sentiments of Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool):

I left you this morning, couldn't take anymore.
You laughed and you dared me to walk out the door.
You said that I'd come back; you knew what I'd do.
And you know you were right ‘cause I'm back here tonight, begging to you.
I won't disappoint you, I'm begging to stay.
That's what you wanted to hear anyway.
It must make you happy to make me so blue.
What a pitiful sight I must be tonight, begging to you.
You don't want my loving, but you let me stay around—
I guess just to walk on so you won't touch the ground.
To you it don't matter what you cause me to do.
As long as you keep me begging to you.

You can imagine what a good, breaking country voice can do with lines ending in “do, you, blue,” turning them into two and three syllable laments! Once again, the “lover” sees clearly how wrong it all is, how destructive is the relationship, yet he can’t break free. Emotionally, he is relating to the girl as if she were his all and everything. And he can’t get out of this until his heart—not just his head—discovers the true “all and everything” and anchors itself therein.

Now the Apostle Thomas, whom we celebrated yesterday (at least according to what I still call the “new” calendar, since liturgically [and in terms feast days], I also go back to the 50’s and 60’s and give thanks that this is now officially approved under the title “extraordinary form”), prayed to the risen Christ, “My Lord and My God.” These words are also recommended at the elevation of the host after consecration, together with “My God and my all.” Only when we can pray these words with full hearts, not just with the mind and will, are we free from the danger of inordinate attachments like the above. This means that we have to die to the false absolutes, though they are right here before us in our experience in all their attractive power, and this is a very painful and difficult process. What Marty Robbins and Connie Francis need in order to get “out” of their songs, so to speak, is for their hearts to be set on the true absolute which liberates and fulfills, rather than enchaining and crippling.

But then Connie Francis’ song takes on new meaning!  It is more true than the singer knows that everybody’s somebody’s fool. The saints (St. Paul, St. Francis, St. Juniper of the early Franciscans, the Holy Fools or yurodivy of Eastern Orthodox asceticism) expressly want to be fools for Christ!  The little flower deeply wants to be His plaything!  She has perfect trust that she can put herself (and her whole heart) completely in the hands of the Child Jesus and that he will never disappoint—no matter what cross, what disappointment, what reversal she may have to face. From The Story of a Soul, Ch. VI:

I had offered myself to the Child Jesus to be His little plaything. I had told him not to use me like a costly toy which children are pleased to look at without daring to touch; but as He would a little ball of no value, that He might throw to the ground, toss about, pierce, leave in a corner, or else press to His Heart if it so pleased Him. In a word, I wanted to amuse the little Jesus, and to give myself up to all His childlike fancies. (her italics)

Thus in our own case, if we have been tossed about by the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” and if we resent it, we have to be careful that we are not ultimately resenting God rather than still loving and trusting Him. We’d better beg for help—and with God we know this is not begging to a neurotic control freak (as in Marty Robbins’ song) but to the fountain of love, mercy, understanding, and wisdom.  We deeply want to give ourselves absolutely with complete abandonment, so we try at times with the limited goods of this world; but it won't work, it won't be liberating, it won't bring the blissful happiness we're aiming for, unless we find the true absolute.  

But if you are a fool for Christ, you'll never be anyone else's fool.

Comments (3)

Katie van Schaijik

#1, Jul 5, 2012 9:27am

Fun post, Michael.  The referencing of rock lyrics dovetails nicely with Devra's post below about unlikely sources of truth.

About the definintion of oldies: Jules and I burned a CD of "Mom and Dad's favorite golden oldies" for our oldest daughter when she turned 13.  A friend who is more passionate and committed about rock music than we are was furiously indignant that we had included songs by such as Fleetwood Mac and Elton John.  "They're not oldies!"

I completely lost track of pop music when I graduated from high school in 1984. 

About your mention of sham forgiveness, in reference to our earlier discussion.  (I'm still at work on my reply.)  I only want to point out that my concern is not only with the problem of neurosis in ourselves, but of the more serious problem that many Christians have a sham theory of forgiveness, which they impose not only on themselves but on others, as if they were preaching the gospel, when in fact they're doing something different, something false and damaging.

Patrick Dunn

#2, Jul 5, 2012 11:04am

Thinking about false attachments and relationships in light of the above (and I've wondered this for some time now), is there any sense is which there are legitimate attachments between "lovers" in a relationship, such as a marriage?  I know that sometimes people in love and deeply committed to one another (again, as in a marriage) conceive of their own life such that they can't live without their spouse.  Sometimes, couples will speak as truly "needing" one another.  Any thoughts?

Michael Healy

#3, Jul 5, 2012 2:24pm

Certainly we are meant to need each other.  Not all attachments are neurotic.  God said, "It is not good for man to be alone."  We are ordained toward one another in service and in love.  Our need for each other indicates of our ordination toward communion and love.  To quote another old "classic" from Barbara Steisand (1964):

People who need people
Are the luckiest people in the world
We're children needing other children
And yet letting our grown-up pride
Hide all the need inside
Acting more like children than children

Are very special people
They're the luckiest people in the world
With one person,
One very special person
A feeling deep in your soul
Says you are half now you're whole
No more hunger and thirst
But first be a person who needs people
People, people who need people
Are the luckiest people in the world.

It's just that we have to admit, or learn the hard way, that each of us is ultimately made for God--only He truly makes us whole, not our human lover; the infinite, resounding I-Love-You of the Most Holy Trinity is our deepest ordination and need.  But our admission of need for one another helps us toward being humble enough to admit our absolute need for the Divine Lover.

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