[lit-ideas] Re: Got Home

  • From: Andy <mimi.erva@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 21 Jan 2012 06:18:25 -0800 (PST)

From:Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> 
Sent: Saturday, January 21, 2012 5:32 AM
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Got Home
Though the song is not a theological argument, it does use certain key phrases 
(and avoids others). In conclusion, like many songs by Leonard, it is somewhat 
open-ended, here as to questions of the afterlife. There is nothing specific to 
indicate there is an afterlife after we have gone home, nor anything specific 
to deny that there is. 
Andy:   I would hope his knowledge of the after life is open ended.  If Leonard 
knew what's in the afterlife I'd like to know how he knew.  And so would a lot 
of people who have no reason to believe there's anything beyond the here and 
Donal:  What there is 

Going home
Without my burden
Going home
Behind the curtain
Going home
Without the costume
That I wore
suggests that, whatever is behind the curtain (which may be 'nothing'), it does 
not involve the trappings of our earthly appearance ["the costume"]. There is 
no suggestion that we come back out from behind the curtain (after a quick 
costume change, say) and so there is nothing in the words to justify the view 
that it is about "death (false self) and then rebirth (true self)".  For 
rebirth, in say the Buddhist sense, would involve coming out from behind the 
curtain, usually in a new costume. There is nothing about "rebirth" either 
stated or clearly implied: in fact, "going home" is arguably antithetical to 
"rebirth", and certainly does not imply or include the idea of "rebirth". As 
far as the song goes there is a "going home" and that is it. 

Andy:  I see here why you think this has religious overtones.  This is where we 
need to define some terms.  The false self I'm referring to (and I haven't done 
this in years so I'm struggling from memory) is the adapted child.  It's 
prevalent in psychology, among others Donald Winnicott.  Here is the first 
paragraph pasted from the Wikipedia entry on "adapted child".  I think this was 
most certainly Marilyn Monroe's problem, but it's felt to some extent by nearly 
everybody because that's what the society teaches.  Often the feelings are 
drowned out by overachievement or many other ways.  Anna Freud believed that 
the well adjusted person adapts to society.  Well what if the society itself is 
maladjusted?  What if we value the wrong things?  We then have to twist and 
conform ourselves into those values, to our obvious detriment.  Please note I 
am NOT impugning Leonard's emotional status.  If anything, I'm merely saying he 
recognizes the
 existential space he's in.  Rousseau saw the invisible bars mankind 
lives behind too but from a different angle.  At any rate, from Wikipedia:
True selfand false self are terms introduced into psychoanalysis by D.W. 
Winnicott in 1960. Winnicott used the term "True Self" to describe a sense of 
self based on spontaneous, authentic experience, a sense of "all-out personal 
aliveness," or "feeling real." The "False Self" was, for Winnicott, a defense 
designed to protect the True Self by hiding it. Winnicott thought that In 
health, a False Self was what allowed one to present a "polite and mannered 
attitude" in public. But he saw more serious emotional problems in patients who 
seemed unable to feel spontaneous, alive or real to themselves anywhere, in any 
part of their lives, yet managed to put on a successful "show of being real." 
Such patients suffered inwardly from a sense of being empty, dead or "phony."  
[snip]  Carl Rogers had independently highlighted Kierkegaard's much earlier 
claim that 'the deepest form of despair is to choose "to be another than 
himself". On the other hand "to will to
 be that self which one truly is, is indeed the opposite of despair," and this 
choice is the deepest responsibility of man'."
Andy (continued):  In the psychological community the curtain metaphor is 
borrowed from (as far as I know) the Wizard of Oz (the movie), where, as we all 
know, the wizard is just a person pretending to be something he isn't.  
Donal:  Andy's interpolation that we have death of a "false sense" and then 
comes some "true self" is also not justified by the words. It is true that 
lines like "without the costume that I wore" implies a shedding of some outward 
appearances - but these do not necessarily equate to a "false self". For maybe 
the self on earth needs a "costume"? So to say these necessary coverings are 
"false" is, in a sense, as mistaken as saying the shoes I wear are "false". 
Andy:  A costume isn't necessarily a false self.  It's merely a uniform 
reflecting an occupation.  However, identities are often taken from 
occupations.  What do we ask when we meet someone?  We ask, what do you do.  
They tell us what they do and we immediately size them up for who they are.  
And that's exactly the point.  We have no clue who we are, only what we do, 
especially men.  In Leonard's case he lists his various occupations as it were, 
the shepherd, the sage, whatever it is.  Nowhere on that list is there a 
Donal:  This raises the question of whether after death there is even a "self" 
to speak of, or a "self" in the sense of our earthly selves. Perhaps only our 
earthly selves, with their "burden", are selves? Perhaps there is no "I" behind 
the curtain because there is no costume to differentiate an "I" there. Perhaps 
there is no "I" there because all that is "my burden" no longer exists there. 
All this, I suggest, is left open. 
Andy:  The burden isn't the self, it's the baggage the self carries, the energy 
spent in adapting, pretending to be something the self doesn't feel.  It's a 
way to feel safe, since the original self wasn't acceptable (to parents or 
caretakers), so the child learns what the parents/caretakers want and becomes 
that thing.  The true self of the child goes into hiding, behind a uniform, 
under cultural baggage, drugs, shopping, sex, whatever.
Donal:  Is this nihilism? Well, would destruction of our earthly selves, with 
their "burden", be a nihilism in the sense of something that renders life 
"meaningless"? Or might it be release and a release against which life can well 
have its meanings? 
Andy:   In earthly terms, the self never really gets destroyed.  It's always 
there, just hidden.  Eventually it's as if there is no self, but there is.  
Therein lies the sense of 'I'm just not quite good enough'.  There are many 
ways to act out this; overachieving is but one of them.  The expectations on 
poor Leonard are many, shepherd, sage.  He wants to drop his burden and go 
home.  That's the hero's journey.  It sounds easy, but coming home to one's 
self is amazingly difficult.  
Donal  Though no expert, I mention that the Catholic church has recently 
clarified its idea of a heavenly afterlife. It is not a heaven of disembodied 
selves but a heaven where after death we become 'one again' with God in the 
universe - an end of self in any earthly measure. I doubt the Catholic church 
views such teaching as nihilism - though clearly it is nihilistic in the sense 
that it repudiates the idea that we can measure such things as the afterlife in 
earthly terms.

Andy:   I'm sure a lot of people are happy for the guidance.  Beliefs are a 
dime a dozen.  Take your pick.  The afterlife is unknowable except as a 

Donal:  As regards World 123, I feel you do not understood the point (which I 
take from Popper) about Worlds 2 and 3 being central to what is uniquely human.

Andy:  Absolutely correct.  I have no clue what that's about.  World 2 is 
developing as measured by its junk, World 3 has less junk, they're about equal 
in stupidity.  Sorry, no clue.  It does sound interesting though.  

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