If I Were You: k.d lang and Buddhist Delusion

I have heard k.d. herself call her own music to be “melancholy”. When she said it, I got the idea that she did not really like that word, but couldn’t really think of a better one. Personally, “melancholy” and “k.d. lang” don’t mix so well in the same sentence as far as I am concerned. I have always found her stuff profound; and anything mentally stunning is not sad, exactly. So right on cue, I set out to try and think about how I could try to cash out what I think she may have meant. Of course, this is all just my own blatherings-on. If one asked k.d. herself, she may find my interpretation knee-slapping. And that’s OK! Since k.d. is an artist, there are levels of interpretation. So I think I am pretty safe that mine is going to fit in somewhere in the  k.d. universe.

Def Con 5-Narcissism or a Subtle k.d Finger Wag

Take k.d.’s song “If I Were You” found on All You Can Eat.

When I first heard this song in around 2005, (I know, I am late to the k.d. party), I thought there was something strange about it. One the one hand,  k.d. is talking about feelings we all of have had. When I was a teen, I used to think that being anyone but me, (and the jury is still out about “who” that is), was the “Ultimate Existential Solution”.  But on the other hand, these are not feelings we necessarily feel when we are in love.  I am not sure about you, but really, when you are in love,  you do not say “I want to BE So and So”. You say, “I want to be  WITH So and So”.  All you think about is So and So, but none of your thoughts are about exchanging identities. One cannot be loved by another if they are identical to them. It is a logical impossibility that leads to the  absurd result of extreme narcissistic self love. And I do not think that that is what k.d. is after in this song.

I think what k.d. is going on about here is being in the midst of 3 of the 6 most devastating delusions one can be. Most religions have caveats about these same basic sins, vices, or delusions. But since k.d. is all about Buddhism, I’ll use its “delusions”.

In a basic sense, Tibetan Buddhism warns of 6 major wrong ideas that can really do a number on your karmic health. These are (1) Ignorance: Not seeing how cause and effect work and that life is all about cycles. (2) Greed: Being totally into sensual satisfaction and attaching ourselves to objects (3) Anger: The mother of all evils and the opposition of compassion and patience (4) Pride: to much ego or hubris (5) Doubt: rejecting the idea of impermanence and the cyclic element of life and (6) The Delusion of Doctrine: Hanging on to ideas that cause pain and suffering to oneself or other beings.

Greed, Pride and Doctrine: Fun to Be Around, But a Bad Influence

So here is what I think k.d. is up to. In this song k.d. is talking about the delusions of Greed, Pride and Doctrine. The way she presents this song, it sounds easy and simple, right? Just be something other than who I am and all issues go away. By delivering the lyrics in this way, k.d., is  ultimately making fun of these ideas of Greed, Pride and Delusion of Doctrine.

If she could be the “queen of popularity” then (fill in the blank with ultimate perfection).

If she could be “Miss congeniality” then (try to name one person who would not love her).

If I believe this Doctrine of Delusion then (try to tell full-blown Ignorance it is not the root of my false happiness).

Of course, this song has levels of purpose. For one, it is catchy and fun to sing along with, especially when you are trapped on the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles or comparable highway somewhere else. (Actually, it is one of the few songs that we mortals have half a chance to croon along with k.d.  Think about it. Most of her stuff is just not sing-along-able).  But the reason why this song sounded “strange” to be way back in 2005 is because it is not really supposed to be “fun”. It is a inconspicuous  tongue-in-cheek reminder that life is tough, and solutions that are as easy as “if I could”, are not usually the better ones.

If I Were You

If I could only be
The queen of popularity
Things would just come to me
So easily
What I would do.
What I could do.

If I could only be
Miss cogeniality
No one could stand to be
Away from me
What I would do.
What I could do.

I could do anything
If I were you
I would have everything
If I were you.
What I would do.
What I could do.

I could do anything
If I were you
I would have everything
If I were you.

Read more: http://artists.letssingit.com/kd-lang-lyrics-if-i-were-you-zj1wblp#ixzz3JXyQmy9U
LetsSingIt – Your favorite Music Community

Photo credit: George Pimentel. Used with editorial permission

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