Bourdieu and the Beach Boys


More serious work….

I am recalling a piece where JGB writes, in a piece omitted from DU:


‘It is the moment in Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus was know to the two disciples at Emmaus in the breaking of the bread. A simple gesture made from the overwhelming intensity of God-consciousness in the resurrected Christ carries with it more conviction of Being and a deeper consciousness of Eternity than any work of art’.


I guess this story has been like a defining one for me this autumn: firstly, because I am struck by the way a small gesture can reveal so much. This has been my experience: the flick of an eye, the way someone holds their cup. It is all there. Intent. Intention. Being. Will. It is like the way we hold our guitar pick reflects the way we live our life. Sadly, this works negatively as well as positively. Many times I see something and almost prefer to ignore it, but it always catches up with me. Actually, I must admit to occasionally deliberately provoking the ‘signs’. Not that I have any wish to engage in a ‘that’s you that is’ exercise, more a question of at least bringing it out into thr open.


All congruous of course with JGB’s fact-value distinction and essence, basically the timeless condition of HeideggerianBeing.


I know that Till I Die song by Brian Wilson from Beach Boys album Surf’s Up.




This record itself is pretty much central to my thesis that ‘Surf’ is an allegory for ‘Being/ Dasein’ in this corpus of work. The record itself is fairly ‘elemental’: Earth/ Grounding – (Long Promised Road/ Take a Load of your Feet/ A Day in the Life of a Tree); Love/Sex (Disney Girls/ Feel Flows). All this against a social background: (Student Demonstration Time/ Lookin’ at Tomorrow – a Welfare Song). However, as always, it is Water that is the main metaphorical vehicle: Don’t Go Near the Water/ Surf’s Up.


In earlier BBs work, we are encouraged to Catch a Wave, to come on a Surfin’ Safari and to be Surfin USA.



Here, water is the Zeitgeist of Dionysian energy. Fire, emancipation, sensation. Surfing this spirit is to share in Being – or so it seems. We all join in. However, by the time of the Surf’s Up Album, the spirit has exhausted itself, the dream was a (Luciferian) illusion/ delusion. There is a cost. In fact, the water spirit – the wave we were catching – turned out to be nothing more than materialism/ consumerism. Hence, the water gone bad – Don’t Go near the Water. Surf’s Up, as, yes, the Surf IS Up, but it’s a bad surf. In fact, not only is the Surf ‘up’, but so is ‘the game’ – ‘the game is up’. This is depicted in the dejected, exhausted figure on the Album cover:





The song Surf’s Up attempts to give a both historical, social and emotional account of the present socio-political state: it begins as a theatrical display (“A diamond necklace played a pawn…”); then everything falls apart (“Columnated ruins domino…”); the music itself turns out to be a costly illusion (“The music hall a costly bow…”) ((Don Maclean makes a similar point in American Pie)); the past comes back to haunt (“Dove-nested towers…”); People drink, etc. to drown their sorrows (‘”The laughs come hard…”/ “ “The glass was raised…”); but there is a need to Cross the Water (“Surf’s Up…”Come about Hard…”) – the tide is up, the boat is ready, but there is hesitation. If we do not take the boat and engage in the journey, we will remain landlocked. However, the Ocean is big and open and we are not really sure what is on the other side. In the Surf’s Up Song, the writer’s solution is Art – regaining Innocence (“A Child’s Song….”) and rediscovery of the Word (of God presumably) – “I heard the word…”…


Here, Innocence and Experience is regained, but as an assumption of Innocence in a Field of Experience – the Child and the man are one and the same. In this sense, the nightmare dream of the ‘bad’ water, is transfigured into an expression of faith. Again, I take the whole allegory to be in the same tradition of Gnosticism and, specifically, William Blake. For example, in the Arlinngton Court picture.



(Incidentally, the story of the discovery of this picture is to note. It was discovered in the twentieth century on the top of a wardrobe in Arlington Court. The fact that it was covered in dust preserved the superb water colours. It seems to depict a scene from Porphyry’s De Antro Nymparum (1821). The kneeling figure of Odysseus, in the act of throwing the girdle lent to him back to the sea goddess Leucothea. Pallas Athene stands behind him, pointing to the heavenly world from which souls ‘descend’ into generation, to be woven into the mortal garments by the nymphs of the cave, working at their looms and shuttles (spinning materialism). The three fates are in the water of the estuary opening into the ‘sea of time and space’, drawing yarn from a distaff held by the sea-god Phorcis. Atropos holds the shears (cutting men off from the material world as the re-ascend the paradise). This whole picture, and the fact that De Antro Nymparum was translated by Thomas Taylor, allowed Elizabeth Raine to argue that Blake was a Neo-platonist but, really, it is rather more the Gnostic resonances that the story holds which attracted Blake than the Platonic view of ideal forms, etc.). The Time/space allusions also really fit with JG Bennett’s more technicist account in the Dramatic Universe 2 (see the esoteric section of this site). So, water is materialism. In this light, the ‘Till I Die song refers to both bobbing around on the ocean of materialism – until I die. Not forgetting of course that for the Gnostics, birth was death and vice versa, which come to think of it is probably the cycle depicted in Surf’s Up.

“I’m a cork on the ocean
floating over the radiant sea
how deep is the ocean?
how deep is the ocean?”



Life then becomes surfing the wave of work materiality. But this action is Being itself: “I fought my way hey hey hey”. Until I sink beneath the wave and die – Gnostically, to be reborn to ‘the light’ – le soleil absolute. Meanwhile, “I’m a rock in a landslide rolling over the mountainside, rolling over the mountainside, how deep is the valley, how deep is the valley, It kills my soul, I’m a leaf in the air, pretty soon I will be blown, away how long will the wind blow, how long will the wind blow….

These things are true, until I die
These things are true, until I die”.