It’s really interesting to see how much archetypal material there is in modern culture, and as a music fan, I find it everywhere in song.

This song, O Superman, written and performed by Laurie Anderson, is a haunting song that sticks with you – it certainly it does for me. I loved it at the time and it has aged well I think. Anderson is considered an “avante-garde” artist. Wikipedia defines it thus: The avant-garde from French, “advance guard” or “vanguard”, literally “fore-guard”, are people or works that are experimental, radical, or unorthodox with respect to art, culture, or society.

O Superman

O Superman. O judge. O Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad.
O Superman. O judge. O Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad.
Hi. I’m not home right now. But if you want to leave a
message, just start talking at the sound of the tone.
Hello? This is your Mother. Are you there? Are you
coming home?
Hello? Is anybody home? Well, you don’t know me,
but I know you.
And I’ve got a message to give to you.
Here come the planes.
So you better get ready. Ready to go. You can come
as you are, but pay as you go. Pay as you go.

And I said: OK. Who is this really? And the voice said:
This is the hand, the hand that takes. This is the
hand, the hand that takes.
This is the hand, the hand that takes.
Here come the planes.
They’re American planes. Made in America.
Smoking or non-smoking?
And the voice said: Neither snow nor rain nor gloom
of night shall stay these couriers from the swift
completion of their appointed rounds.

‘Cause when love is gone, there’s always justice.
And when justive is gone, there’s always force.
And when force is gone, there’s always Mom. Hi Mom!

So hold me, Mom, in your long arms. So hold me,
Mom, in your long arms.
In your automatic arms. Your electronic arms.
In your arms.
So hold me, Mom, in your long arms.
Your petrochemical arms. Your military arms.
In your electronic arms.

In the song, the mother, with all her arms, carrying potential destruction, reminds me of Kali. Kali is a major Hindu godess who can represent the Divine Mother. She is a destroyer as well as a divine protector and liberator. Gods and goddesses are complicated and powerful forces in mythology. But that complicated nature applies to technology as well, so the comparison to Kali is apt. We are confronted by this new god or goddess every day of our lives now as its power grows.

And “when force is gone, there’s always Mom” – return to the Great Mother – the force and power of last resort?

Technology, communication and the Great Mother – potent realities and a potent symbol.

The title – O Superman – Nietzsche? Nietzsche explored his idea of a superman or “beyond man” in his writing. Nietzsche spoke of the “death of God” but not in a literal sense, but of the death of the God concept within humans and he saw the superman as being the new source of values after the end of religion as the source of values.

I would not attempt to discuss Nietzsche more fully here. He is perhaps one of the greatest, yet misunderstood thinkers, and everyone owes it to their understanding of the world to get to know Nietzsche and his thinking better.

The song suggests a good deal to think about or feel into. The rhythmic background staccato sighing sound is almost like rapid shallow breathing, although more conscious than it would be if a person was in a panic. That panic would be the normal cause of such breathing, but it does suggest a level of anxiety.

For your archetypal consideration, I present this piece of art. Viva la avant-garde. We need more such art to push the boundaries.