vs “Hard Believer”, First Aid Kit (The Big Black and the Blue, 2010)
Here are the preachers of death: the preachers of eternal life. Such is the equation Nietzsche explores through Zarathustra’s speech of Chapter 9. Whether this eternal life be that preached by Christian priests in black robes or Buddhist priests in yellow robes – the song remains the same. ‘They come across an invalid or an old man or a corpse; and straightway they say, “Life is refuted!”’ This fleeting life is suffering – and the peace of the next external life will be the reward for such torment. And it is here Zarathustra exposes the central paradox: ‘Their wisdom says: “A fool is he who stays alive, but such fools are we! And this is just what is most foolish about life!”’ And while Zarathustra will concur (some say ‘”Life is only suffering” – … and do not lie’), suffering becomes that which must be transformed, overcome, surpassed. People make themselves ‘ripe for the preaching of death’ by believing suffering to be an aberration, rather than as the very motor of life. Suffering is what gives birth to life.
Such is the starting point for the glorious acoustic ballad ‘Hard Believer’ by the folk duo First Aid Kit. This seemingly simple two verse, three chorus and one coda song is as complex a critique of the propaganda of the consolation of eternal life as that of Zarathustra’s speech on the preachers of death.
In the first verse Klara Söderberg explores the break-up of a romance; yet she does so without hysteria or self-pity: ‘So you ask for my opinion well what is there to say / To be honest and just foolish won’t make you want to stay.’ As Klara and her sister Johanna harmonise in the chorus: ‘Love is tough, time is rough / On me’. In the second verse Klara takes us from a moment of actual suffering to the sisters’ philosophical understanding of such an event, they use the pain of a break-up to both deny and refute the solaces of religion, as well as affirm a secular worldview. ‘Well I see you’ve got your bible your delusion imagery / Well I don’t need your eternity or your meaning to feel free / I just live because I love to and that’s enough you see / So don’t come preach about morality that’s just human sense to me’. This is the crucial point: ‘Love is tough, time is rough’, yet it is through overcoming such suffering that we live. The final coda of the song – one of the most wonderful musical passages ever created – is a sequence where the guitar and mandolin are augmented by an old bar piano and the voices of the two sisters soar in harmony: ‘And it’s one life and it’s this life and it’s beautiful’. Here are the three truths: one life, this life, and its beautiful.
For those that preach death, for those that preach eternal life (over the beauty of the one life, this life) Zarathustra has a mischievous message: please ‘pass on to it quickly!’
First Part: Chapter 10 - The Cult