nummer van 19/08/2012 door Buffi Duberman

‘The Afterlife’ van Paul Simon

A good trip

De New Yorkse Buffi Duberman is, zoals velen haar noemen, de taalcoach van de Nederlandse sterren. Haar lesmethode Rock Your English! staat vol funky lesoefeningen aan de hand van songteksten, waarmee ze heel Europa lijkt te veroveren. Genoeg reden voor ons om haar te vragen voor een gastblog; hoe gaat dat nou in zijn werk Buffi, zo’n songtekst bestuderen? Ga er maar even voor zitten, want zo’n gedetailleerde analyse (in English!) zul je voorlopig niet snel voor je kiezen krijgen.

Paul Simon – The Afterlife

When someone you really admire lyrically glows about lyrics from someone he admires (who happens to be someone your parents grew up with, along with Art G and Neil S and Neil D and Barbra S and Bobby F) you kind of sit up and take notice. So thank you Bertolf for mentioning this new Paul Simon track on Facebook. The lyrics are fantastic, and I’d like to take a moment to share them with you with my own proverbial 2 cents. 

After I died, and the make up had dried, I went back to
my place.
No moon that night, but a heavenly light shone on my

I love that he says ‘and the make up had dried’ – does this mean that he was living a lie, or did he get made up just to look good at the Pearly Gates? Maybe there’s a door bitch? I’m not sure exactly of the meaning behind this, but I love the symbolism and the visual imagery that it conjures up. Oh, and excellent use of the Past Perfect there. Sigh.

Still I thought it was odd, there was no sign of God just to
usher me in.
Then a voice from above, sugar coated with Love,
said, “Let us begin”.

Interesting that he seems to be Waiting for God(ot) and she’s nowhere to be found. Fantastic how he describes the voice being ‘sugar coated’ – isn’t that how we all picture the guy upstairs? And ‘Let us begin’ – this is a phrase used to start a religious service. Does he mean that you have to pray first before you can enter? Interesting!

You got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the
You got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the

Ah, ‘Let us begin (with the administration)’….now I get it! It’s the red tape all over again. But this time not at the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), which is notorious for their long lines and tape so red it’ll make you bleed, but Up There. Gosh, that’s something to look forward to. Are there perhaps 42 virgins waiting in line with you? Because that might make it more bearable. For some.

OK, a new kid in school, got to follow the rule, you got to
learn the routine.

Notice how he says ‘a’ new kid in school, and not ‘the’ new kid in school – so you’re one of many. But there’s only one rule to follow – ‘the rule’– what could it be? So if you don’t know it you know nothing? The mind boggles. And ‘the routine’. Sounds military. Learn the drill. Rinse and repeat. Welcome to heaven. Welcome to heaven.

Woah, there’s a girl over there, with the sunshiny hair,
like a homecomin’ queen.
I said, “Hey, what you say? It’s a glorious day, by the
way how long you been dead?”

Now the clouds break and we literally see a glimmer of hope, in the shiny mane of a fresh-faced girl. Notice the sharp jump the other way around when his pick up line contains ’glorious day’ and ‘how long you been dead?’ I’ve heard a lot of pick up lines, but this one takes the cake. Great contradiction, excellent visual imagery.

Maybe you, maybe me, maybe baby makes three, but she
just shook her head…

Was she a mother? Was she pregnant? Does he want to start a family with her in the afterlife? I don’t know what he means here, but I’m intrigued by the happy ‘baby makes three’ used so often in birth announcements, films, etc being offered in this way. It’s eerie. Spookalicious.

You got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the
You got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the

My colleague will be with you in a moment.

Buddha and Moses and all the noses from narrow to flat,
Had to stand in the line, just to glimpse the divine, what
you think about that?

Excellent stuff here – he goes from Buddhist to Jewish, he doesn’t discriminate, there’s more than one God, and their disciples’ ethnicity is expressed through different noses. Narrow, or crooked, could be the Jew, flat could be Asian/Buddhist, and everything in between. I love that he uses a basic human characteristic to define something so worldly. And even Buddha and Moses had to stand in line too. So don’t expect any special treatment. I wonder if Moses could part the line? ;)

Well it seems like our fate to suffer and wait for the
knowledge we seek.
It’s all his design, no one cuts in the line, no one here likes
a sneak

So we are all destined to suffer, and be patient. The Jew might say the first (according to the gospel of Woody Allen) and a Christian might say the second (‘good things come to those who wait’). In any case, no one cuts in line, and no one likes a cheater. So no one will ever be good enough. My God (whoever you are, and I have a huge nose) if Buddha himself couldn’t jump the line, we are all doomed to wait. We’re screwed.

You got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the
You got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the

You need to go back to counter number 4.

After you climb, up the ladder of time, the Lord God is

I love ‘the ladder of time’ – it sounds like something that has no end, really. I guess that the higher you get to God, the closer you get, but when I heard this I pictured an M.C. Escher drawing, one that had no end or beginning. This could also mean that the older you get, the closer you get, but that would contradict the young girl he mentioned before. Knowing Simon’s lyrics, he wants us to draw our own conclusions on this one, I suspect.

Face to face, in the vastness of space, your words

And you feel like swimming in an ocean of love, and the
current is strong.

Do you think Astro André when you hear that verse? I do! Someone floating around in a vacuum, where words have no sound and perhaps no more meaning, and the current of Divine Love supports you and serves as your compass, your gravity, your lifeline. Until…

But all that remains when you try to explain is a
fragment of song…
Lord is it, Be Bop A Lu La or Ooh Poppa Do
Lord, Be Bop A Lu La or Ooh Poppa Do
Be Bop A Lu La

What an ending! When you finally get there, words fail you and you can only quote randomish sounds from a song. Fantastic. Does this mean that music is the universal language? Or that words have no meaning, it’s all about music? Or love? Or that God is a DJ? I have no idea, but I loved the trip Paul Simon took me on today.

This song reminds me of this video: Check it if you have 12 minutes and 25 seconds.

The Meaning Of Life = 42

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