The Course of Reason

Music Monday: “Eet” by Regina Spektor

June 3, 2013

As we followed the winding and mountainous Pennsylvania backroads on the way home from Women in Secularism, Sarah and I discovered a mutual love for Regina Spektor. Regina Spektor is a Russian-American singer-songwriter who arose out of the anti-folk music scene in New York in the early 2000s. She often combines rather sparse but melodic instrumentation with abstract lyrics that lend themselves to a variety of interpretations. Sarah and I talked specifically about Spektor’s album “Far”, the songs on which frequently incorporate religious themes and references. Though I enjoyed the “Far” album when I was a religious believer, Spektor’s lyrics took an a new, perhaps even more powerful meaning for me when I became an atheist. 

As Spektor says in this interview:

“I have a lot of questions about it all and I’m always thinking about faith and spirituality and tradition and religion [...] does religion do good or does it do harm? Obviously it does both so I don’t know exactly how I feel about it. But there are a lot of songs [on the album] that mention it ‘cause I guess I think about it often.” 

While some of the songs on the album do make explicit references, to God and religion, the song from “Far” that always touched me as an atheist was the song “Eet”. The lyrics are about loss. They describe in simple yet poignant the feelings of shock and emptiness that come as a result of a loss. When I became an atheist, the words took on a powerful meaning for me because they reflected exactly how I felt when I first began to realize that I could no longer rationally believe in God or religion:

It’s like forgetting the words to your favorite song

You can’t believe it

You were always singing along

It was so easy and the words so sweet

You can’t remember

You try to feel the beat

There is something particularity touching for me as a non-believer about the idea of suddenly forgetting one’s favorite song after having sung along with it for so long. It was much like my own belief in God; it was always there, taken almost for granted. Then suddenly, I was faced with the prospect of living without it. 

“Eet”, at first glance, is very sad, but we would be doing it a disservice to say that it only describes the loss of faith as a hopeless experience. In living openly and happily without religion, we as nonbelievers know that it is not. The third verse of “Eet” is strange. It seems almost completely irrelevant to the rest of the song:

Someone’s deciding whether or not to steal

He opens the window just to feel the chill

He hears that outside a small boy just starting to cry

‘Cause it’s his turn but his brother won’t let him try

I do not know what Regina Spektor’s thoughts were when she wrote these lyrics, but when I first thought of them in the context of losing religion, I was almost reduced to tears by the unusual sense of hope that they added to the rest of the words. They introduce, if unintentionally, the concept of humanity and secular morality. We are presented with a person with a decision to make as to whether or not to do something wrong. Rather than considering sin or punishment, this person is instead moved by the feelings of another human being having something stolen from him. This is empathy. This verse always reminds me that even though deconversion can seem like a loss, especially to those who are religious, there is still something left to fill the gap left where faith in God used to be: faith in humanity. For me and many others, this is a kind of faith that becomes even more meaningful than the religion it replaces. To return to metaphor used in the song, sometimes we may forget the words to song that we once loved, but the beat will still be there if we only stop and try to feel it within us.

As always, if you get a chance, send your suggestions for future Music Mondays to Cody at chashman@centerforinquiry.net, leave a comment below, or @tweet us at @CFIOnCampus. Your suggestions, along with future and past songs, may end up in the official Course of Reason Music Monday Spofity playlist that anyone can listen to.    

 

 

 

About the Author: Monica Harmsen

Monica Harmsen's photo
Monica Harmsen, also known by her Internet handle LittleKropotkin, is a student at the university of Michigan. She is majoring in Russian, but her biggest passion is the secular movement, which she became involved in through the atheist community on YouTube. She is the current president of the Michigan Secular Student Alliance and often writes about atheism and her experiences in the movement on her blog The Humble Empiricist.

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