Friday, February 5, 2010

The Meaning of Life: Submarines and Subtext

So, what exactly is the meaning of life?

When I was considerably less ancient, I relentlessly searched for the answer to that grand question in the pages of the world's most highly revered books (i.e. The Bible, The Tao Te Ching, The Kama Sutra, and even The Yellow Pages). None of them helped, however, because I realize now that you cannot discover the meaning of life in such places.

Instead, you need to delve deeply into the lyrics of rock songs — especially the songs of The Beatles. More especially (is that a phrase?), you should reference the songs written by Ringo Starr, who most people would agree is the smartest man ever to wield a mustache (a list, by the way, which includes Albert Einstein and Tom Selleck).

Perhaps Ringo's most controversial and challenging song is the cleidoic Yellow Submarine.

I shall perform a brief lyrical autopsy upon its key passages:

So we sailed up to the sun
Till we found the sea of green

And we lived beneath the waves

In our Yellow Submarine

Many critics have scoffed at this imagery, vehemently claiming that Ringo is evidently the victim of the world’s worst GPS device as he recounts a whimsical, but nonsensical journey. It appears uncertain whether the narrator is underwater in a green sea beneath the waves, close to the sun, or both places, seemingly impossibly.

Other critics have alluded to this passage as direct proof of Starr’s penchant for copiously ingesting LSD and other psychedelic drugs during the sobriety-deprived 1960s.

Poppycock. Could such a man -- under the influence of hallucinogens -- have grown and trimmed such an aesthetically-pleasing mustache? Could such a man -- and his alleged perpetually drug-addled brain -- deconstruct so many complicated concepts in such a clear, concise and catchy manner? Not bloody likely.

Those simpletons who attack Ringo are ignoring the subtext within the songwriter's existential exploration. It seems obvious to even an infant with no concept of space or time that Ringo is alluding to a state of existence that is omnipresent... in the sun, in the green sea, under the waves, and yes, in the Yellow Submarine, which a blatant metaphor for the purity of light that physically encompasses every soul in the universe.

Indeed, the axiom “We all live in a Yellow Submarine” removes all doubt that every being in existence is eternally inside the parameters of an infinitely-massive vessel capable of submerging through all of space and time, whether we actually see the Yellow Submarine or even acknowledge its presence.

Later in the song, Ringo writes:

And our friends are all on board
Many more of them live next door

And the band begins to play

Notice how he states "our friends are ALL on board" and then proceeds to write that more of them live next door, as well. How can all live on board and yet more also live next door? Indeed, such an event is impossible, at least within the parameters of linear time, which, unfortunately, is how man generally perceives it.

However, time is subject to all points of view in the universe where each individual observer examines it from – as well as when each observer examines it be it the past, present or future. Thus, one observer's interpretation is only a singular diluted fractal detail that helps comprise the shape of Time Entirety, which of course, is alluded to as the music that the band plays on and on.

Thus, we all listen to the symphony of time as we ride in the Yellow Submarine, even if it appears that we are only neighbors to the Grand Vessel. After all, humanity is consistently constricted by its own cognitive failings.

Incidentally, this notion is also nascent in Nowhere Man during the following stanza:

Doesn't have a point of view
Knows not where he's going to

Isn't he a bit like you and me?

This song is believed to be written by the late, great John Lennon, but I believe this was a case where John (as he so often did) consulted Ringo for help with composing lyrics. Ringo's influence is as obvious as it is epiphanous.

Here, the Divine Drummer proliferates the precept that everybody is inherently a nobody who, in the confines of his or her own navigational confusion, is ultimately nowhere to be found.

What does that mean? What indeed, Ringo, what indeed.

The meaning is simple: Everybody is a nobody in their own unique way, and, subsequently, even nobodies can be embodied in the concept that is everybody.

Thus, it also stands to reason that nowhere can indeed be found everywhere, especially in a Yellow Submarine.

Critics of Starr’s seminal philosophical works counter this theorem saying that the opposite is sublimely true, that there is no Yellow Submarine, only the empty meaningless pockets of cold space comprised of random matter particles completely devoid of purpose.

However, Ringo had previously covered this ground himself by noting that if such a truth was exposed, it would mean that we all live outside the Yellow Submarine’s hull, which is merely the aforementioned pocket of nothingness where, of course, only nothing can exist. Ringo brilliantly referred to this plane of non-existence as the shade in the Octopus’s Garden.

However, Ringo also realized that it is a paradox for one to exist in a plane of non-existence, even if we desire it so. And, of course, Ringo desired it so:

I'd like to be
Under the sea
In an Octopus's Garden
In the Shade.

Therefore, Ringo surmised that the meaning of life for us is to faithfully accept our roles as meandering passengers on that almighty celestial submarine. Unfortunately, Ringo secretly longed to leave the vessel and merge with the shade of nothingness that denotes a purposeless existence. So, as you can see, not only is Ringo the most profound mustachioed man to have ever lived, he is also one of the saddest.