22 January 2008
"The Miracle"
Though I promised Adlin and Sarah that I'd blog about watching Cloverfield (which is a fun movie I must say - go watch it and try to figure what's the big fuss about the ending), I'm going to renege and continue instead this series of posts about the songs on the album... LOL...

"The Miracle" is the fourth song on the album. I wrote it when I was living in Setiawangsa (circa 2000, I think). It's half based on a dream and half cobbled together from my fascination with the phenomenon of miracles. I don't remember much about the dream now. But I do remember being quite fascinated by miracles while growing up a Catholic in Kota Kinabalu. There was this book of illustrated stories from the Bible (I can't remember the title and it's probably disappeared now) that was left in the cabinet under the TV in my family home. And every now and then, while I was growing up, I would flip through it and read the stories about Job, Lazarus, Saint Paul on the road to Damascus, Noah and the Flood, Jesus' crucifixion and ascension, the Ten Plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and so on. It was really fun to read about them because they seemed so unreal. It definitely made an impression on me.

But I was a lazy Catholic. Can you believe it? I failed Sunday School. Never received my first Holy Communion. After that it was all downhill. I kind of rebelled against God, so to speak... LOL... Still, I'm a big fan of the rituals of the Church, and all the fun blood, suffering and gore stuff. I'm not a voracious reader of the history of the Church, though I did read up on some stuff about the Inquisition and Torquemada. And no, I didn't read The DaVinci Code. I did read The Name Of The Rose though. That took a few months... phew... ha ha... I guess I'm not serious at all about the Church. But I can't deny that the Catholic Church is full of intrigue. And there are too many Catholics, active and/or lapsed, out there who still think of God in very reverent terms.

One interesting aspect about the Catholic faith, which the Vatican frowns upon (though in a strange way, it encourages) but Catholics the world over obsess about, is the phenomenon of the miracle. I think it's one thing that survived the Christianising of magic-based pagan beliefs with more vigour than one would initially suspect. Because the miracle is proof that God exists. So it's celebrated a lot in Catholic pop literature, from the Biblical stories to crying statues of Mary, to relics with healing powers to sightings of the Christ in woodgrain, bla bla, the list goes on.

But in the age of reason, non-believers like to think of miracles or visitations as evidence of a loopy mind. I'm no different. Foucault referred to this in Madness and Civilisation, though not in direct reference to those deluded by the miracle. Part of the Wikipedia summary below.


Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, by Michel Foucault, is an examination of the ideas, practices, institutions, art and literature relating to madness in Western history. It is the abridged English edition of Histoire de la folie à l'âge classique, originally published in 1961 under the title Folie et déraison. Histoire de la folie à l'âge classique. A full translation titled The History of Madness was published by Routledge in June 2006. This was Foucault's first major book, written while he was the Director of the Maison de France in Sweden.

Foucault begins his history in the Middle Ages, noting the social and physical exclusion of lepers. He argues that with the gradual disappearance of leprosy, madness came to occupy this excluded position. The ship of fools in the 15th century is a literary version of one such exclusionary practice, the practice of sending mad people away in ships. However, during the Renaissance, madness was regarded as an all-abundant phenomenon because humans could not come close to the Reason of God. As Cervantes' Don Quixote, all humans are weak to desires and dissimulation. Therefore, the insane, understood as those who had come too close to God's Reason, were accepted in the middle of society. It is not before the 17th century, in a movement which Foucault famously describes as the Great Confinement, that "unreasonable" members of the population
were systematically locked away and institutionalised. In the 18th century, madness came to be seen as the obverse of Reason, that is, as having lost what made them human and become animal-like and therefore treated as such. It is not before 19th century that madness was regarded as a mental illness that should be cured, e.g. Philippe Pinel, Freud. Other authors later argued that the large increase in confinement did not happen in 17th but in the 19th century, somewhat undermining Foucault's argument.

Foucault also argues that madness during the Renaissance had the power to signify the limits of social order and to point to a deeper truth. This was silenced by the Reason of the Enlightenment. He also examines the rise of modern scientific and "humanitarian" treatments of the insane, notably at the hands of Philippe Pinel and Samuel Tuke. He claims that these modern treatments were in fact no less controlling than previous methods. Tuke's country retreat for the mad consisted of punishing them until they gave up their commitment to madness. Similarly, Pinel's treatment of the mad amounted to an extended aversion therapy, including such treatments as freezing showers and the use of straitjackets. In Foucault's view, this treatment amounted to repeated brutality until the pattern of judgment and punishment was internalized by the patient.


Though Foucault's writings have come under query since his death, I still like his ideas. The main gist of it is compelling, because of what it says about society's changed views on the idea of magic, the inexplicable, the miraculous. What was once a thing of wonder is now a compendium of mental illnesses.

"The Miracle" in a way is my own view of the phenomenon. The song is a little exotic, somewhat dramatic and kinda romantic narrative about a person who encounters his/her beloved who is in a state of possession, of being drawn to something mysterious. I don't really explain what the miracle is. ("Oh Jerome, you bastard.") In the song, the narrator is trying to understand. And as he/she does so, he/she becomes overcome by it too. Pete Teo heard this once and was sorta disappointed by the conclusion... LOL... because it didn't seem to lead anywhere but back into itself. I guess the point of a miracle is not for it to reveal itself. It's merely a symbol upon which one ponders. The miracle itself is not important. What is important is ultimately up to the ponderer to discover.


The Miracle

I walked along the river to your house
There were lanterns everywhere like fireflies
I traced the path of coloured flags down to where you lay
Your body left a hollow as you stood to take my hand

You said, I could see the miracle
Come to me, unmistakable
You fell to the ground and pushed against the earth
You fixed your gaze to the dark and then there was a spark

I led you inside to your bed as it rained
The army of weather had returned to claim its men
By the glow of candles I kept vigil over you
Delirious with joy in the presence of something good

You said, I could see the miracle
Come to me, unmistakable
You dashed out the door with lightning at your feet
You were pulled by a force invisible, unseen

Who is the lover of this precious thing
Who is the keeper of this wonderful thing

I walked along the river looking for you everywhere
Strange omens came to me and went without a trace
Then in a clearing on the beach I fell into a spell
I dreamt that I could touch your face and hear you speak again

You said, I could see the miracle
Come to me, unmistakable
I took your hand in mine that was warm as it was cold
And kissed the mystery inside as before us it unfolds

Who is the lover of this precious thing
Who is the keeper of this wonderful thing

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
Came to the blog 'cuz one of your songs started up on my shuffle playlist. It was "The Miracle". :)

Blogger Jerome Kugan said...
:-D Serendipity!