Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live….Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative… ( Oscar Wilde )
The more justification there is for a grievance, the more dangerous it can be. Perhaps the human attachment to suffering is the biggest dependency of all. The path of least resistance is identifying with pain and producing intentional suffering in accordance with expectations. The song sounds a bit funereal. Like a prologue to the day of judgement. lyrically, the tone is that of an indictment. Enough abstraction and hint of legalese to summon Kafka; Except for the emotion in John Lennon’s verse, one could imagine a clerk of the court reading them, methodically plodding on. And who does it indict? Lennon’s parents, of course, but equally, also himself. His singing of the opening word of each verse – Mother! Father! Children! – sounds more like deep mythology where the spirits spoke across great distances
You had me,
But I never had you.
I wanted you.
You didn’t want me.
I just got to tell you:
…A day after his mother’s death in 1977, Roland Barthes began writing this “mourning diary” and kept it up for two years. The following year, soon after completing Camera Lucida, he died himself (suddenly, in a traffic accident). Barthes was one of the most widely read and influential of the 20th century’s French maitre a penser, as much an intellectual celebrity as his contemporaries Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. Like them, he influenced structuralism, semiotics and post-structuralism, as well as literary and cultural theory….
It is an axiom that if we are aiming for conscious growth, then we must work at becoming more loving, and this will mean,to reconcile the contradictions and find a tolerable way to love our parents at a profound and meaningful level. Complementary to this is the idea that until we can find love in that relationship. However, passion and obsession mixed with appreciation and esteem in varying degrees seems to be our lot, and a sorry lot it often is, being that passion is assumed to be an acceptable and artificial substitute for what could pass as love.
You left me.
I never left you.
I needed you so bad.
You didn’t need me.
I just got to tell you:
In “Mother” all artifice, all glossy surfaces, are sanded back, and the heart, the raw matter of life is presented through the vehicle of an art so perfectly mastered as to appear artless. On this album, Lennon means and does business. Yet, it is also the moment of confronting contradictions and some hypocrisy or at least borad inconsistencies; A form of signal failure for Lennon to live up to his own standards.
…These assembled notes, originally written on index card-sized slips of paper, reveal his deep distress through his careful consideration of his feelings, much in the same way he contemplated the external world of popular culture and French literature. Yet the brevity of the entries — some are only a few words long, only two are longer thsingle page — and their intimacy set them apart from his more public work….
Mother. what does that word mean to you? “Mother” is perhaps the most harrowing song Lennon ever recorded, and one of the most harrowing pieces of popular music as well. There is something confronting about its stark title: it isn’t “Mother, You Had Me”, or “Goodbye, Mother” or “My Mother”. It’s just plain “Mother”; a mute, open ended challenge of primal reality opposed to subjectivity.
With nothing but a single words, Lennon evokes divinity, a parent, a terrifying state of existence, a poignant faculty of the
psyche, and the most powerful feeling-impulse we know. This is a song, and a record of essential experiences.
Don’t do what I have done.
I couldn’t walk,
And I tried to run.
I just got to tell you:
…This is a portrait of an unusually close relationship between a mother and son. Barthes lived with his mother until her death, and his relentless mourning slides perceptibly into a full depression in these pages. The depth of his feeling matches what we usually expect in the case of the early passing of a lover, not a parent. The creepiness of it is latent right from the diary’s first entry: “First wedding night. But first mourning night?” and then the second: “You have never known a woman’s body! / I have known the body of my mother, sick and then dying.” … ( Basilieres)
Mother. Our relationships with our parents are always in flux, even after they have died. Nothing seems to remain static for very long: not how we feel towards them, not what we think of them, not our dominant memories, and not our overall assessments of them. And it must be so,or at least it has always been because our relationship with our parents is essential and unavoidable, and as long we change, so will that relationship. When we speak about Lennon’s , his mother Julia and his father Fred, the issue of the distortion which seems to inevitably affect our memories of our parents becomes central. But as Lennon realized, one cannot love while we are subject to these distortions, irrespective of whether they are “favorable” or “unfavorable” distortions.
Mamma don’t go!
Daddy come home!
Mamma don’t go! Daddy come home!
Another feature of the song is its extreme economy with words. Even when Lennon sings: “I just got to tell you, goodbye”, he’s being
minimalist. He means that he has to say it, and that’s all there is to say. He’s driven to impose finality, a closure which seemingly is not attainable. No finality. No resolution. After the prose of the verses bidding farewell to mother, father and children, Lennon yells: “Don’t go! Come back!” It’s both a goodbye and a come back. Can we be in both places at once. His mind and his heart sing that he has to take his leave, and move on. But his feelings scream that he wants more of them, not less. The song’s minimalist structure is made by this tension between the two poles of departure and return, burying and retrieving the past. The tension cannot be maintained in life, but only in the song.
…Only a few days after her passing, he notes, “The desires I had before her death … can no longer be fulfilled, for that would mean it is her death that allows me to fulfill them ….” And five months later, he’s still marking time by reference to her: “First illness since maman’s death,” and still sick at her loss: “This morning, thought continually of maman. Nauseous sadness.” All this conflation of the carnal with the maternal doesn’t, of course, suggest any manifest impropriety, but it does signal unusual experience….( Basilieres)
In the third verse he accepts that he is a failure as a parent, and can do nothing more constructive than to warn his “children” not to
follow his example; who are exonerated from the grief and guilt. This verse is related to the rest of the song. There is a hope that the children may succeed where Lennon and his parents have not. Lennon tells the children to learn from the pitiful examples before them, and to this end, he’s prepared to let us see that he had never recovered from his painful childhood. Was Lennon running away from his parents because he was running after them? Both the gift and the curse of being born and the disappointment of meeting the demands of their parents emotional needs. So, Lennon warned the children, and showed them where the dangers are. Of course, we are the children, and so too, was Lennon. After all, he did try again with Julian and later with Sean.
Objectively, the hypocrisy is that at the time Lennon wrote “Mother” he had a child, and had run out on him. Lennon could have done more for and with his son, but it appears that, for reasons known only to himself, ostensibly selfish motives, he could dump the responsibility on Cynthia with a clear conscience and nourish his own self-centeredness.Perhaps its related to the expression “The act of creating life where once there was none, is the most selfish of all acts; for it arises from a desire in oneself, and forces life upon another being without request.” Or, instead the view that by not creating we were being selfish? There can be no more selfish an act than propagating one’s genes, as genes are the most fundamental essence of the physical self. At the same time it may be selfish not to propagate. There is no definitive answer.
…Although Barthes continued to work and write while making these notes, there’s little mention of his day-to-day life here. The Mourning Diary was a separate project, devoted solely to the enduring sense of his loss. There’s no indication that his pain recedes over time, although he does note the calming of his emotions. One wonders, then, if this depression followed him to the end of his life not long after….
Selfishness seems to be the danger Lennon was referring to. Lennon was pointing to a state where there are almost no bounds to our
selfishness, and yet, once we have risen above it, selfishness seems to lose its magnetic force. A case of “once overcome, forever vanquished?”.Or is this the real me, the essential I, making a sacrifice,and allowing personalityto enter stage left and claim credit. Almost inevitably,personality claims its “due reward, ” It speaks a language of entitlement; a demand for gratitude and recognition.
A requirement of reciprocation is a commercial bazaar, a flea market in the expression of affection; The mark of the Beast that devours up everything real with selfishness. Lennon was touching this theme that love can become mixed in our psyches by an emotional entanglement. The mother’s love is forever being offered, and then withdrawn if her prior unstated conditions are not met.
Its most plausible that “Mother” is entirely founded on Lennon’s belief that his parents should not have left him. Where the rubber hit the road, the matter was not so much that Fred Lennon ran out on Lennon, it’s more that Fred could not summon the necessary strength to meet the challenge. “just a pawn outplayed by a dominating queen”, as Bernie Taupin said of Elton John in “Someone Saved my Life Tonight”? ( Philip Norman )
I never realized the passing hours
Of evening showers,
A slip noose hanging in my darkest dreams.
I’m strangled by your haunted social scene
Just a pawn out-played by a dominating queen.
It’s four-o-clock in the morning
Listen to me good.
I’m sleeping with myself tonight
Saved in time, thank God my music is still alive. ( Someone Saved My Life Tonight)
Here the queen was probably Lennon’s Aunt Mimi more than his mother Julia. But like any story there are many sides….
…Mourning Diary is fascinating as a precursor to his last work, though, by itself, it stands as a monument to Barthes’ sensitivity to experience and any meaning to be drawn from it. Anyone who has suffered depression will experience the shock of recognition in these pages. Indeed, some entries seem more like poetry than reminders. It has the narrative drive of the best literature; it is thoughtful, beautiful and fluid, delivering what Barthes himself famously called, “the pleasure of the text.”… ( Basilieres )
Dwight Garner: “Mourning Diary,” like nearly all of Barthes’s books, is a collection of beginnings, of fugitive and conjectural observations that lap over one another and push forward like successive waves onto a beach. The first page reads, in its entirety: “First wedding night. But first mourning night?”
The second page is a bit more dramatic. “You have never known a Woman’s body!” an internal voice shouts. (Barthes was gay.) The response: “I have known the body of my mother, sick and then dying.”
“Mourning Diary” eases into a rhythm, as Barthes settles into the routines of his grieving. Among his central observations is that he enjoys the loneliness of his suffering. (Few books have better borne out Faulkner’s observation that “given a choice between grief and nothing I will take grief.”) “It’s when we’re busy, distracted, sought out, exteriorized, that we suffer most,” Barthes notes. “Inwardness, calm, solitude make us less miserable.”