Supercolliders, Pop Music, and Purpose…
I was ten years old when my eyes were first opened to the way of the world by the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff via the release of their number one song ‘Boom! Shake the Room’. In the closing months of 1993, the Prince and DJ taught me about a new world. A world where it was cool to say ‘Yo’; where the peak of my cap no longer had to face forward; where you could suddenly decide that your Mum and Dad had been wrong all these years in thinking that they knew your correct name (it was actually ‘The Skill’); and most of all, a world where a song could be the most awesome thing you ever heard and yet at the same time not really have Shakespeare quaking in his boots for fear of having his World Championship Lyric Writing trophy snatched from his shelf.
To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, one of my particular favourite lines from the song sees the Prince describing to us just how great he is at this rapping lark:
“The rhyme is a football y’all and I went and threw it
Out in the crowd and yo it was a good throw
How do I know? because the crowd went hoooo…
… I am the driver and you’re on a rap ride“
But it’s unfair to lay this all on Will Smith’s shoulders – the truth is, great music and nonsense lyrics have had a long-standing love affair. I can remember listening to my Dad’s Beatles albums when I was a child and loving them, and yet even at such a young age being fully aware that Ringo’s bizarre songs masked a hidden dream that one day he might be a children’s entertainer (Thomas the Tank Engine eventually made that dream come true).
Pop music and shallow, nonsensical, lazy lyrics go together like football and effeminate sportsmen. However, once in a while, a song will come along that breaks those rules; It ticks both the ‘great music’ and the ‘interesting lyrics’ boxes on Phill’s pop music review form.
Black and Gold by Sam Sparro is one such song.
Now, it’s fair to say that maybe this doesn’t tick the ‘great music’ box on your own form. This is probably because you don’t have good music taste, and I forgive you for that. However, it should at least tick the ‘interesting lyrics’ box. It’s unusual for a pop song to deal with something deeper than she likes him not me…
Last Thursday saw the momentous occasion of the turning on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, and it will perform it’s first high energy collisions in a few weeks time on the 21st October. Without wanting to show my geek side too much, I am SO excited about this experiment! There isn’t time to go into any depth about it here (I will probably write another post about it nearer the time), but in short it will either confirm things about matter and energy, the make-up of the universe, that we have never been able to witness before, or it will cause us to rethink everything we thought we already knew. The media were whipped into a frenzy over ridiculous claims of world-ending black holes, but Scientists around the world are leaning forward expectantly with the hope that we might finally understand what we are composed of at the most fundamental level.
Don’t get me wrong. As I have already said, I really am excited to see what comes of this experiment; but the question that surely must spring up in the minds of men at the end of all this is surely “So what?”. We may find ourselves with a full understanding of just what we are composed of, why we have mass, what fills the universe, and how it all fits together, but then we must come to the point where we ask of ourselves what exactly this means for our lives in terms of meaning and purpose.
As strange as it my seem, Sam Sparro deals with this very point. He sings of how he is filled with the fear that everything he sees around him is ‘all just a bunch of matter’. What if it’s all just ‘stuff’? And worse, what if we are just ‘stuff’. What if the LHC experiment is just person-shaped-stuff building collider-shaped-stuff that bangs stuff into other stuff?
The feeling that there is more to existence than simply existence is one that always pervaded the human consciousness. Sparro says he ‘feel[s] the weight of something beyond…but [he doesn’t] see what [he] can feel’. Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that God ‘has set eternity in the hearts of men’. They are both getting at the same thing. We may ignore or embrace it to different degrees, but all mankind has wondered at some point as to why we are here, what we are supposed to do, and if there is something greater than ourselves.
The good news is that finding the answer to this won’t cost us €6.4 Billion (the expected cost of the LHC). In the first chapter of Colossians the Apostle Paul says that everything (including us) was created by Jesus and for Jesus. In fact, Paul goes further and says that Jesus is the reason that everything still holds together. The Westminster Shorter Catechism states that the chief end of man is to glorify God – but what does this mean? In Colossians, Paul goes on to say that Jesus, the Son of God was crucified so that we could be reconciled and restored to the very purpose for which we were created; to glorify God in our salvation and in our eternal relationship with Him. John Piper expands on this, saying that God is ‘most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. Or: the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever’.
We are more than just matter. We are made with purpose in the mind of the Creator of the universe, and that purpose is for us to ‘enjoy Him forever’. God created Adam and Eve with relationship in mind and was willing to sacrifice His Son to make that possible. Our purpose is to be forgiven of our sin, to be given new life, to enter a relationship with the Creator, Maintainer, and Purpose of everything we know, to live in joy, and to spend the rest of eternity getting to know the infinite God.
Sparro ends the song with the following words:
“If you’re not really here
then the stars don’t even matter…
…cause if you’re not really here
then I don’t want to be either
I wanna be next to you”
The stars do matter. Life matters. You matter.
Because of Jesus.