Have you ever had one of those songs that gets stuck in your head and never ever leaves? The kind of song that digs in deep and becomes a part of your heart and soul, an audio extension of your very being? Sure you have. We all have. These are the kinds of songs played during first dances at weddings, or played in tribute to lost friends and family at funerals, or copied and burned on to every conceivable mixtape and playlist you could ever hope to make. The songs that always make the cut. The songs on repeat. We all have them. I have a ton. Welcome back to Endless Loop.
“Quicksand” by David Bowie
“I’m closer to the Golden Dawn, immersed in Crowley’s uniform, of imagery.”
Throughout his long and storied career, David Bowie’s lyrics have almost always been ripe and ready to dissect, discuss, and devour. Drawing heavily on the works of Nietzsche, Buddhism, and Occultism, “Quicksand,” one of the standout tracks on 1971’s virtually flawless Hunky Dory LP, is an absolute model of the potential that songwriting has to evoke deep, philosophical thought and debate. In so many ways, it is the poetry of the modern masses…when done correctly. The song’s lush production, acoustic guitar, and string and piano arrangements make for a beautiful listen as well, a kind of sugarcoated pill to make the philosophy study easier to swallow or comprehend.
At first glance “Quicksand” seems to be a rebuttal of religion, maybe even some kind of quasi middle finger directed at the pulpit. But it’s actually so much more. Bowie is not so much about condemning religious thought or parables, but rather opting to let go of one’s preconceived notions on life and the world, a mind opening, view altering schism to our way of thinking. The song employs principles derived from Buddhism, focusing on creating a purposed existence for oneself, seeking harmony and transcendence in our love for the earth, each other, and life in general. To do so, one needs to let go of the otherworldliness of the divine, or of the soul, or of the self.
“I’m not a prophet or a stone-age man, just a mortal with the potential of a superman.”
Bowie wrestles with the concepts of Nietzsche’s Übermensch and Aleister Crowley’s brand of Thelemic mysticism, different paths of existential thought to explore and discover, alternate routes to uncovering true purpose. He seems to weigh in on the pros and cons, practically declaring himself an “overman,” but also minding his own fear of the “total goal” that any line of thinking may ultimately land upon. He accepts a path or ism, and then just as soon questions it or rejects it, his heart, mind, and soul racing in a million directions at once.
It’s all too much.
“And I ain’t got the power anymore.”
Bowie is searching for answers…and finding plenty, but also none at all. He’s searching for reason in man-made constructs and ideas and beliefs, and feeling the weight of all of his thoughts. He feels like he’s sinking in the quicksand of it all. But most importantly, he’s thinking. He’s questioning everything. He’s exploring. And he’s open and accepting, even while investigating and critiquing any and all manner of religion, creed, or existential theory. As so should we all. It’s important to learn, and to discover, and to love. Don’t succumb to the rigidity of theocratic ideology…or even to its antithesis. Think for yourself and just live until you die. Maybe one day we’ll all see the space baby.
“Don’t believe in yourself. Don’t deceive with belief. Knowledge comes with death’s release.”
Maybe I’m over thinking all of this. It’s really just a beautiful song. Listen below.
From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.