Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Whitney Wisdom Part Two - I Believe That Children Are The Future

It's Christmas afternoon, and that, of course, means the usual wall-to-wall litany of soul-crushingly over-repeated Christmas specials.  Morecambe and Wise, Dad's Army, Porridge... comedy classics all, no doubt, but the cumulative effect, hour after hour, year after year, and at the ear-drum-splitting levels of volume required by my dad's poor hearing, is enough to drive a man to drink.  So in a vague effort to stave off the inevitable trip to the gin cupboard, I shall attempt to distract myself by thrashing out the hotly anticipated second part of our ever-lengthening analysis of the theological soundness, or otherwise, of Whitney's gloriously inspirational anthem, "The Greatest Love Of All".  After all, what could be more Christmassy than that?

If you missed part one of this weighty and vital discussion, fret not, for it was largely dispensable preamble to the devastating pronouncement that this song is currently occupying the top spot in my list of all-time-favourite heretical pop songs.

You might wonder why I have a list of favourite heretical pop songs.  Some people just like to make lists, okay?  I have a list of favourite pop song key-changes too.  And a list of the least appropriate Bible readings to have at a marriage service.  I hope, one day, to draw on all three lists simultaneously and create the wedding day that no one will forget.

Anyway, back to the Pop Song Heresy Hall Of Fame, and the reason why this song is at number one: While other songs on the list are pretty narrow and unadventurous with their heresies - Berlinda Carlisle's "Heaven Is A Place On Earth", for example, can be refuted with a simple "Er, no it's not." - this one contains a splendid assortment of doctrinal fallacies, culminating in one that strikes at the very heart of Christianity.

You may not care much about doctrine, heresy, Christianity and the like.  You may be thinking "It's just a song man, get over it".  (In fact, I hope you are.)  But it's this or the gin, so I'm going to ignore the fact that testing an 80s power-ballad for theological soundness is an exercise in captiousness, and press gamely on.  And who knows, maybe it'll be fun.

So let us begin.

I believe that children are the future.
Okay, good opening.  I'm not sure what it means, exactly, but I guess I can share the sentiment.  I mean, my children, if I'm ever going to have any, are definitely in the future.  Then again, my own childhood lies largely in the past.  So I guess the jury is out on this one.

Teach them well and let them lead the way.
Less controversial - I'm all in favour of someone teaching them well.  As long as it doesn't have to be me.  Though I think it's probably a bad idea to let them lead the way.  When I was a child I wanted to change my name to Frodo.  Or Hazel.  I'm quite glad now that I didn't get my own way on that one.

Show them all the beauty they possess inside.
First off, euck, on the inside they are all blood and intestines, same as us adults. And if you start showing children their own intestines then you deserve everything that will happen to you. It's really not okay.

Secondly, here we are treading dangerously close to Implied Heresy Number One: The Innocence of Children.

Controversial news-flash: children are really not innocent.

I'm picturing howls of protest from the three of you who are kindly still reading.  "Children are surely innocent... at least until the point when they become teenagers.  And besides, Dave, you have none, so what gives you the right to claim such a thing?", I hear you say.

Well, this gives me the right to claim such a thing: the potential death-blow inflected upon my genitalia by a vicious little cherub with a folded up music stand one Saturday afternoon as I was idly enjoying some grown-up banter at a wedding, with my eyes at adult head-height, little suspecting that a two-foot terrorist wielding a heavy piece of metalwork was about to run under my radar, strike my wobbly bits with sufficient force to leave me curled up on the floor gasping for breath, and then run off laughing demonically.  Yes, my friends, that gives me the right to claim such a thing.

Mark my words, this was not the accidental attack of an innocent. This was a calculated experiment to discover the force required to render a grown man helpless.  And you should all be worried - because once news gets out that a folded music stand and a rudimentary knowledge of anatomy is sufficient to tip the balance of power between toddlerhood and adulthood, we are all in peril. I'm told that my attacker is actually a very charming child who is friendly and popular with his classmates.  Of course he is.  He's a strategic genius.  He's out there raising an army.

See, those who go about blindly believing in the innocence of youth are just asking to be dealt a painful surprise to the nadgers. Children are no more beautiful on the inside than adults. In fact, let's look at the scores: Number of times an adult has endangered my chances of procreating by brutally connecting the more dangly parts of my anatomy with a large quantity of rapidly moving metal: 0. Number of times a child has done the same: 1.

I think the figures speak for themselves, but more importantly, I have the Bible on my side - at least, I can't bring to mind any passages in the Bible which suggest that children are innocent.  Paul's terrifying indictment in Romans 3:10-18 - "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God... no one does good, not even one..." - contains no meliorating footnote with the words "Oh, except for the children, of course".  In fact, the Bible repeatedly refers to us all as "children" (and "sheep", which are like children but fluffier and stupider) - and, since the message of the Bible is unequivocally that we are not innocent, it would be an odd choice of description if children were understood to be guiltless.  I think the Bible's view on children can (with some gross over-simplification) be summarised as: Vulnerable, yes.  Precious, yes.  Innocent, no.

You may think I'm laying this on a bit thick.  Let me just say, in my defence, that the impulse to cross your legs every time you see a music stand is not a terribly convenient burden for a musician to bear.

Moving on.

Give them a sense of pride to make it easier.
Well, we've veered straight from the Children-Are-Innocent heresy and into the Pride-Is-Good heresy.
Pride isn't good.  I know we talk about things like taking pride in your work, or making your parents proud, but really, when was the last time pride made you do something good?  Generally speaking, the only things pride makes easier are the things that, if we were in our right minds, we wouldn't actually want to do. Cycling twenty miles home instead of catching the train, for example.

I'm not saying we should crush the little children until they have no sense of worth. (Unless they are threatening your manhood with a collapsed implement for bearing sheet music, of course.)  But pride is bad. That famous quote about pride and falling comes from the Bible: "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" - Proverbs 16:18.  Indeed, the Bible has much to say on the subject, which can be summarised as: Pride Bad.  Humility Good.  
(I recently read a book on humility, by the way.  It was pretty good.  But I could have written better.)


Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be.
I'm sure you can imagine what the mocking laughter of children reminds me of.  'Nuff said.

(Incidentally, for an update on the gin situation, it's now the day after Boxing Day, bloody Dad's Army is on the TV again, and we're well in to the second bottle of gin.  Cheers.)

Picking up the pace now:

Everybody's searching for a hero - okay...
People need someone to look up to - can't disagree...
I never found anyone to fulfil my needs - shame, shame...
A lonely place to be. - well, indeed.  Sad times.

So I learned to depend on... - here it comes...


I don't know what you thought of the Queen's speech this year.  The feeling amongst my evangelical friends was one of delight that Jesus actually got a name-check this Christmas.  The talk in the Bignell household mainly concerned the terrifying width of the royal bosom.  (I didn't start the conversation but I was forced to concede that it was, indeed, terrifyingly wide.)

Anyway, one of the things Her Maj mentioned this year was the fact that sometimes we can't actually sort things out for ourselves. We can't depend on ourselves. Admitting this lies at the very heart of Christianity.  What Whitney is advocating, therefore, is what I'm going to call the We Can Depend On Ourselves Heresy. I'm not going to explore this now, other than to say that if my closest friend had let me down as often as I've let myself down, I wouldn't trust him with anything.  If you've learnt to depend on yourself, then you are a better man than me, but I'm afraid you've been listening to the wrong teacher.

It's been a long post, you've been very patient, let's push on through now to the climax.

I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows.We used to play a game like this in the school playground. It was really hard work and involved a lot of crazed jumping and running. It's no way to go through life, I promise you.

If I fail, if I succeed, at least I live as I believe.Yes, being led around by murderous children whilst trying to avoid their shadows.

No matter what they take from me they can't take away my dignity.You think?

Music stand.
I'll say no more.

Because the greatest love of all is happening to me.

Really? That's nice. What is it?

I found the greatest love of all inside of me.

Yeah, it's always the last place you look. But what IS it??

The greatest love of all is easy to achieve.

Awesome news! BUT WHAT IS IT???

Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.

<Insert sound of needle skipping off record followed by long empty pause>


And there you have it. Ye Olde Loving Yourself Is The Greatest Love Of All Heresy. Possibly the Number One Top Heresy In Any Song Lyric Ever.

I'm sure by now none of you are dying to hear me explain why, so I hereby draw this missive to a close. But please do tune in again next time to read more tediously detailed arguments about Why Whitney Is Wrong.  Good night.


  1. I enjoyed this as I have enjoyed all your blogs, Dave - immensely. I too have frequently encountered the "you have no children and are therefore unqualified to express any opinion on any subject even remotely child-related" argument, many times, and it is always a nerve-rasping annoyance. I am not Scottish, yet no-one challenges my right to express an opinion on Scotland. I do not own a cat, but I may voice my feelings about cats with impunity. I have never made a film, although people allow me to criticize films I have seen without censure. Yet as soon as I dare to make an even vaguely controversial statement on the subject of parenting, toddlers, adolescence or breast-feeding, I am shouted down on the grounds that as a childless man my opinion must be irrelevant. Grrr. Next time someone tries it on you, respond with the music-stand. I would.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, and for being the first ever person to comment on my blog. (I think, according to the Law Of The Internet, you were supposed to write "Firts! lol!" or something, but we'll let that pass.) Of course, music-stands these days are all trendy plastic jobs that are light as a feather. Gone are the days when you could walk home through Finsbury Park late at night after a gig safe in the knowledge that if anyone tried anything you were carrying half a ton of sharp knobbly metal with which to defend yourself. These days you only have a viola to defend yourself with, and by the time you've got it out of the case and started playing, it's usually too late to do any good.