When Philosophy, Religion and Poetry “Meet”​ with Classic Rock Music: The Longing for Immortality

Terry Kath (1946 – 1978): Former Lead Guitarist of Chicago

In a song on Chicago II’s (1970) double album, Robert Lamm and Terry Kath write the lyrics to “It Better End Soon,” an anti-Vietnam War song about the fundamental longing of human beings to live, not die. Speaking for the America people, Kath sings,

“No more dying! No more killing. No more dying. No more fighting. We don’t want to die. No, we don’t want to die.”

Similarly, in his book The Tragic Sense of Life, Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno (1864 – 1936) admits what most people feel in the depths of their being and even admit to themselves, namely, that there is a sense of immortality in the human heart. In other words, human beings, in general, recoil and rebel at the thought of death. Deep inside, humans gravitate toward being, living, not dying. As Unamuno writes,

“I do not want to die — no, I neither want to die; nor do I want to want to die. I want to live — always, always, always. And I want this ‘I’ to live — this poor I that I am and that I feel myself to be here and now.“

Likewise, Dylan Thomas (1914 —1953), the Welsh poet expresses well the natural aversion of human beings to death, especially their own death. In Thomas’ words,

“Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

There is, as Pete Seeger (1919 – 2014) writes in “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (1965), a song by the Byrds, “‘A time to be born, a time to die.’” Curiously enough, Seeger quotes from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, which is in the Bible. “’A time to be born, a time to die’” (Ecclesiastes 3:2a) is a natural truth, a biological fact, about life. However, the line which Seeger does not quote in Ecclesiastes is that the Creator of human beings “has also set eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11b, NIV).

The longing for immortality, to live forever, is in human beings, because their Creator places it there. That is why they do not want to die. They want time, but they also want more than that, namely, eternity. That is also why, throughout the world, many people believe that death does not have the final say over human beings. There is, then, more to living in this world than dying in it. Theologically, the movie-character James Bond is right: “The world is not enough.”



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