plato, inspiration, and ben gibbard


Plato first noticed a phenomenon we see today: poets are often not the best explicators of their poetry. However, one needn’t subscribe to Plato’s theory of divine inspiration to arrive at a similar conclusion about contemporary artists’ mastery of their art. This insight is similar to the one on artistic intentionality; and it, too, forces us to recognize and live with mystery in our everyday world.

Jamie thinks Death Cab is the greatest all-around American band of our time. And he may be right. But Ben Gibbard’s prose is not nearly so effective as his poetry, as is manifested by an article he wrote for Paste last April.

Gibbard was basically paid to write uninsightful, disconnected thoughts on his career as a musician. Is this really the same guy who sang 

So one last touch and then you’ll go
And we’ll pretend that it meant something so much more
But it was vile, and it was cheap
And you are beautiful but you don’t mean a thing to me
Yeah you are beautiful but you don’t mean a thing to me

(“Tiny Vessels,” from Transatlanticism)


My favorite line comes somewhere near the end of the piece:

I feel very fortunate that we were able to get in before the Web really took off. But I don’t want to go back to that period where we were literally eating mustard sandwiches in West Texas because we didn’t have money. There was nowhere to get anything vegetarian. And even if there was, we didn’t have any money anyway. I remember being hungry and skinny.

“There was nowhere to get anything vegetarian.” Unbelievable.


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