Sunday, January 21, 2007

Munro & the trap door

The lyrics typed below -- from T Bone Burnett's song "The Trap Door" from his 1982 EP of the same name -- are relevant to a point about good fiction to be argued in the Monday lecture. Update: the full lyrics are at this link.

"It's a funny thing about humility: as soon as you know you're being humble, you're no longer humble.
It's a funny thing about life: you've got to give up your life to be alive.
You've got to suffer to know compassion; you can't want nothing if you want satisfaction.
... Watch out for the trap door.
It's a funny thing about love: the harder you try to be loved, the less lovable you are.
It's a funny thing about pride: when you're being proud you should be ashamed.
You find only pain if you seek after pleasure; you work like a slave if you seek after leisure.
... Watch out for the trap door."

For information on Burnett, click here:

MORE: the topic of didactic fiction was discussed earlier: stories and novels designed to teach a lesson about a particular idea or principle. Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is an example of didactic in fiction. In connection with our study of Alice Munro's "Forgiveness in Families," what I call the paradox of didactics was outlined. Along the lines of Burnett's lyric, above, the more direct your didacticism is, the less effective will your teaching be. Munro's lesson about revelation of self and repentance takes its effectiveness from the delicate aristry by which the lesson is concealed.


Anonymous said...

burnett doesn't know what he/she is talking about. One does not need to give up one's life to feel alive. I feel alive when i get As and after a good exercise and I'm not giving up my life. When i'm being proud I'm not ashamed. Pride is power, it is confidence, it is that without which i don't know where i'll end up. if one has no pride one does not have a direction. to seek after leisure, one does not have to work like a slave, if leisure is enough money to not have to work anymore, there are surely alot of people i know who worked hard yet did not do so like slaves and who achieved that status, to acquire money takes brains not brawns.

it's a funny thing about burnett; sometimes he doesn't know what he's talking about

i hope i'm not being too strong in my language,
just my thoughts

...maybe there is pain in seaking pleasure h hahahahah

Anonymous said...

are those the full lyrics to the song? i was trying to search the lyrics on google and it wouldn't let me. i really would like to find lyrics to the whole song. where did u get them?
-thanks :)

andrew said...

in defense of Burnett: I'm not sure he can be "wrong" about any of these words since the song expresses his experience. I think its understood that we don't agree with everything we read, but there is often value in trying to understand what a writer is trying to communicate. Pride is rather large barier to understanding.

1. on giving up life: Barnett is certainly not the only one to suggest that giving up a life lived entirely for self is an empty existence and that more meaning can be found in living for something else.

2. There is a difference between confidence and pride. Pride that thinks of itself above others, that is not willing to listen, that puffs itself up -- I think i'd have to agree that if you're feeling those things, shame would be more appropriate.

3. the line about working like a slave when seeking after leisure: i think Burnett is suggesting that leisure in itself, when separated from the rest of life, is a desire that can never be fully satisfied. Sitting on a beach in Mexico gets old eventually, then sitting on a beach in Hawaii sipping on fancy umbrella-garnished pina coladas gets old, then Sudoku gets old... and soon you're working like a slave trying to please yourself.


Anonymous said...

What about not being able to truly enjoy an "event" until you've experienced the opposite? kind of a "not knowing what you have until its gone" kind of mentality. How can you truly appreciate leisure until you've worked hard? Why do you think it is that you look forward to the glorious moment when all of your exams are done...? You often find people who have, for example, all of the free time in the world, and these people say they are bored with life, they wish they had something to do... Whereas someone who works really hard all the time says they wished they had more free time. Again, how can a person really know what it is that they want until they "know" everything? (which is impossible) Isn't there always the opportunity of something better out there? So, how can a person really be satisfied if they are seeking satisfaction?

Dr. Stephen Ogden said...