I’m not sure whether it makes it better or worse, to get an earworm without even hearing the song first. I got this week’s earworm from Mark Steyn’s Song of the Week: “Nature Boy.”
“Nature Boy” is a particularly aggravating earworm for me, because I find it kind of pretty. It’s the lyrics I despise. There’s a fair number of such songs on my proscribed list—“Imagine,” “One Tin Soldier,” “Green, Green Grass of Home.” I’m particularly handicapped by being a former lyricist. Because of that, I actually listen to lyrics (I think there are about six people in the country who share such a curse). This has caused me considerable suffering over my lifetime.
“Nature Boy,” according to Steyn (and I have to believe him, although it strains credulity) was written by a very odd duck named eden ahbez (no capital letters). He was, we are informed, a sort of 1940s proto-hippy, wandering around Los Angeles in a robe and sandals, with long hair and beard, living on fruits, vegetables and nuts. Somehow he managed to pass a grubby manuscript of the song to Nat King Cole’s manager, and by chance Nat actually looked at it and liked it. And so “Nature Boy” became a national hit in 1948.
There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far
Over land and sea…
A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he.
It’s very clear from eden ahbez’ bio that the “strange enchanted boy” he’s describing is himself. The guy wrote a song about himself, and how wise he was.
Steyn doesn’t go into great detail about ahbez’ belief system, but it seems to have been much the same kind of Buddhist/Hindu/New Age stew that we’ve grown so sadly familiar with in our own times. So it shouldn’t be surprising that such a man would write a song in praise of himself. Humility really isn’t an important virtue to people who believe that the ultimate truth is that they are God. Or god. Or goddess. Or part of god.
It’s just rare to see it stated so baldly.
And what is the wisdom that Nature Boy has condescended to share with us?
The greatest thing
You’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return.
Bold stuff, huh? Love is the answer. Love is all you need. What the world needs now is love, sweet love.
Not a fresh insight. I can think of Someone two thousand years before who said that the chief commandment was to love God, and the second was to love our neighbor as ourselves.
It puts me in mind of the 1960s comedian Jackie Vernon. Vernon was famous for doing his routines completely deadpan, and making most of his jokes about himself (he was an inspiration to me. No, let’s be honest—he was my role model). He had a routine (if I’m crediting the right comedian) about looking for the meaning of life. He told of hearing a rumor of a wise man who lived on top of a high mountain, who could tell him the Answer. So he saved his money, traveled far (over land and sea, I have no doubt), climbed the high mountain, and finally flopped down, exhausted, at the wise man’s feet.
“Tell me the meaning of life,” he gasped.
“Life,” said the wise man, “is deep well.”
“What?” Jackie replied. “I spend all my money, come all this way, climb this mountain, wear myself out, and all you tell me is that life is a deep well?”
“You mean life isn’t a deep well?” asked the wise man.
That’s how I see Nature Boy philosophy.
Christ talked about love too. But He didn’t just tell us to love each other and everything would be all right.
He understood that none of us can love anyone enough to fix his/her heart, and that no love we can receive from each other can fix what’s so desperately wrong with our own hearts.
Instead of just gassing about love, He went into battle against evil, laid down His life, and conquered Death itself.
He even did Nature Boy one better, by having two natures.