Weddings and Wars: A Philosophical Exploration of Human History Through Music

In “Weddings and Wars,” singer-songwriter Will Varley takes us on a profound journey through human history, exploring the cyclical nature of our existence and the enduring themes that define our species. From the dawn of life to the modern era, Varley encapsulates the essence of human experience in a way that is both poetic and philosophical. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the lyrics of “Weddings and Wars” and discuss the philosophical underpinnings that make this song a reflective and insightful commentary on humanity.

Will Varley- Weddings & Wars (An 8-Bit History Of The World)
'Bang' goes the big bang in the darkness and thunder
Adam and Eve were strands of bacteria
Blindly crawled with the birds and the bees
Few years on we climbed down from the trees
And we're standin' in Africa, lookin' at the sky
Saying "Why're we here? What happens when we die?"
We used God as a word for the things we can't see
Now put on some clothes and let's wait for TV

Well it doesn't take long till we're painting caves
Makin' some men kings and other men slaves
Sayin' "God is our reason and God is our leader
God spoke to me and he told me to kill ya."

We spread like a virus to every dark corner
Greeks and romans are layin' down borders
The slaves and the soldiers, the queens and the kings
Wherever they were, they all used to sing:

Birth, death, weddings and wars
That's all we are good for
If all of the past was played as a song
Our lives are a beat of the drum

Invading, enslaving, then trading the plunder
Tabaco and opium, tea leaves and sugar
Empires built with the bones of the slaughtered
A barrel of booze in return for your daughters and
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Birth, death, weddings and wars
Naissance, décès, mariage et guerre
Above the same earth, beneath the same stars
You can't hide the beast that we are

Well by the dark ages we're gettin' into guns
Still fightin' over god and who's got the right ones
Still singin' and dancin', now we're paintin' on canvas
Pasting the time with our sex and our violence

The west gets rich, it strangles the earth
Romeo and Juliet can't make it work
Factories, A-Bombs and Flying-Machines
Finally someone invents the TV

And it's birth, death, weddings and wars
Naissance, décès, mariage et guerre
Above the same earth, beneath the same stars
You can't hide the beast that we are

Instead of hunting now we go to Tescos
Instead of talking now we wear headphones
Instead of mountains we're heading for Mars
Instead of God we have credit cards

And we're still here two thousand and somethin'
No peace, economy is crashing
Singin' and dancin' and looking at the sky, sayin'
"Why are we here? What happens when we die?"
Singing birth, death, weddings and wars
That's all we're good for
If all of the past was played as a song
Then our lives are a beat of the drum
Then our lives are a beat of the drum

The Big Bang and the Origins of Life

The song begins with the line:

“Bang’ goes the big bang in the darkness and thunder Adam and Eve were strands of bacteria”

Here, Varley starts at the very beginning of existence, referencing the Big Bang, the cosmic event that marked the birth of our universe. By juxtaposing this scientific event with the biblical figures of Adam and Eve, Varley acknowledges both scientific and religious explanations of human origins. This duality reflects our quest to understand where we come from, a fundamental philosophical inquiry.

The Evolution of Consciousness

“Blindly crawled with the birds and the bees Few years on we climbed down from the trees And we’re standin’ in Africa, lookin’ at the sky Saying ‘Why’re we here? What happens when we die?'”

As we evolved from simple organisms to conscious beings, our capacity for self-awareness grew. Varley highlights our evolution from “strands of bacteria” to standing upright in Africa, the cradle of humanity. This leap in evolution brings with it existential questions: “Why’re we here? What happens when we die?” These questions have been central to human thought for millennia and continue to fuel philosophical and religious debates.

The Role of God and Religion

“We used God as a word for the things we can’t see Now put on some clothes and let’s wait for TV”

Varley suggests that religion originated as a way to explain the unknown. The concept of God provided a framework for understanding phenomena beyond our comprehension. However, he also touches on the transition to modernity, where entertainment and technology (“let’s wait for TV”) have begun to replace traditional religious practices.

Power, Hierarchy, and Violence

“Well it doesn’t take long till we’re painting caves Makin’ some men kings and other men slaves Sayin’ ‘God is our reason and God is our leader God spoke to me and he told me to kill ya.'”

Varley succinctly captures the emergence of social hierarchies and the use of religion to justify power and violence. From the earliest days, humans have created structures of dominance, often legitimizing them through divine authority. This observation raises philosophical questions about the nature of power, morality, and the human propensity for violence.

The Cycle of History

*”We spread like a virus to every dark corner Greeks and Romans are layin’ down borders The slaves and the soldiers, the queens and the kings Wherever they were, they all used to sing:

Birth, death, weddings and wars That’s all we are good for”*

The recurring refrain “Birth, death, weddings and wars” encapsulates the cyclical nature of human history. Varley suggests that despite the progress and changes over millennia, our core experiences remain the same. This cyclical view aligns with certain philosophical perspectives, such as the concept of eternal recurrence in Nietzsche’s philosophy, where life endlessly repeats itself in cycles.

Colonialism and Exploitation

“Invading, enslaving, then trading the plunder Tobacco and opium, tea leaves and sugar Empires built with the bones of the slaughtered A barrel of booze in return for your daughters”

Varley doesn’t shy away from the dark chapters of human history. The verses on colonialism and exploitation highlight the brutal realities of empire-building. Philosophically, this raises questions about human nature, ethics, and the long-term consequences of our actions.

Technological Progress and Modernity

“Well by the dark ages we’re gettin’ into guns Still fightin’ over god and who’s got the right ones Still singin’ and dancin’, now we’re paintin’ on canvas Pasting the time with our sex and our violence”

“The west gets rich, it strangles the earth Romeo and Juliet can’t make it work Factories, A-Bombs and Flying-Machines Finally someone invents the TV”

As we progress into the modern age, Varley notes the persistent conflicts and the rise of technology. Despite advancements, our fundamental behaviors and conflicts remain. The invention of the TV symbolizes a significant shift in how we consume information and entertainment, impacting our collective consciousness.

The Modern Human Condition

“Instead of hunting now we go to Tescos Instead of talking now we wear headphones Instead of mountains we’re heading for Mars Instead of God we have credit cards”

Varley contrasts our modern conveniences with ancient practices, highlighting the disconnection and consumerism of contemporary life. This commentary prompts reflection on the impact of technology and capitalism on our social and spiritual well-being.

Existential Reflections

“And we’re still here two thousand and somethin’ No peace, economy is crashing Singin’ and dancin’ and looking at the sky, sayin’ ‘Why are we here? What happens when we die?’ Singing birth, death, weddings and wars That’s all we’re good for”

As the song draws to a close, Varley returns to the existential questions that have haunted humanity since its inception. Despite all our progress and achievements, we are still grappling with the same fundamental questions about existence and purpose.

Conclusion

“Weddings and Wars” by Will Varley is a poignant and thought-provoking exploration of human history and the cyclical nature of our existence. Through its lyrics, the song delves into deep philosophical themes, questioning the nature of progress, power, and the human condition. By reflecting on these timeless questions, Varley invites us to consider the essence of what it means to be human.

In a world constantly changing yet fundamentally the same, “Weddings and Wars” reminds us that our journey is both unique and universal. We are all part of a grand narrative, marked by birth, death, weddings, and wars. As we continue to sing, dance, and look at the sky, we remain united in our search for meaning and understanding.

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