No, She’s not OK @kdlang

There are a lot of elements in  the song  “You’re OK” that  make it alluring. For one, it describes a situation nearly all of us have experienced as either the infatuated or the object of infatuation. For another, it tends to make all of us feel better. After all, we are not alone in our obsessions with unknown relationships. Good to know. And, of course, k.d. pretty much hits it out of the park nails it with quips like “nakedly awaiting your OK” or “is it so that my persistence blocks the path of least resistance”.

But the other part of this song that is so intoxicating is the raw description of the see-saw-push-pull effects of hope and fear on the human condition. Hope and fear are the impetus for, I would argue, all of artistic expression. Music, painting, poems, the “great works” of literature and philosophy, are all ultimately about hope and fear. We hope something will obtain, and fear that it won’t. If and when hope’s wishes are granted, we get joy, gratitude and elation. And when what we fear will happen does, we get despair, anger, and self-pity. The tension between hope and fear prevails; at least in many of the more “popular” cultural traditions. In fact, this relationship is so underscored, touted, accepted and otherwise seen as factual, that I remember the brief instant I heard something “different” in this song. What I heard was not k.d. describing  a truth, per se. But instead illustrating how hope and fear ultimately keep us from seeing Life clearly.

Looking at the lyrics of this song, k.d. is a miserable wreck. Her mind is so cluttered with “if-then” and “maybe” statements she cannot exist; just be. Instead she is up all night wrangling with the seemingly intractable hold of  hope/fear. And no matter what may ultimately happen, hope and fear will continue to poke and prod k.d. into an eternal “paranoia”. So, this song is ultimately NOT about being OK, it’s about the misconception that the state of being OK exists. As long as there is hope and fear, there is no possibility of being OK.

To illustrate how I came to this realization, I kept a kind of log for about a week. In this log I wrote down as many thoughts as I could remember and “labeled” them; “work”, “family”, “pets”, “hobbies” etc. Then, I tried to isolate the root of each thought; feelings of obligation, requirements, love, disgust, pleasure etc. And finally, I whittled these down to either hope or fear. In each case, the final sentiment was one of these. “I hope I do a good job at work”. I hope I get to do this or that”. “I fear that my family won’t like such and such”. And on and on and on. My entire mental life was all about hope and fear. Looking at my existence in this way made me see that I was ultimately just chasing my own mental tail. “This is life?”,  I thought. This sucks.

And once I reached this realization, I finally could sort of get what the Buddhist tradition had been yammering on about in all those college philosophy course I took for my doctorate; S U F F E R I N G. Ah, I see (finally), said the totally westernized intellectually dwarfed doctoral student. Yes, this physical existence is, most assuredly, suffering. Even during the “good times” I spend a lot of mental energy hoping they never end, or wishing for ones gone by. And of course, I dread (fear) so many other things like losing my marriage, or doing taxes, or seeing my dogs get old, etc. So, I now see this song as almost tongue and cheek. “You’re OK” is not really possible given the way the majority of us live. Hope and fear permeate all of our conscious life.

Perhaps what this song can teach us is that this “fact” of the tension of hope and fear is not a Truth. It can be altered and seen for what it is; the result of never living in the present, but always in some other time that is not now.   It can be seen as never really existing. Hope and fear are not OK because they prevent us from experiencing Life as the moment to moment excursion it is. The Truth if life is the “eternal now”. This is what we tend to not see clearly, and what hope and fear obfuscate.

“You’re OK”

I am wrought with paranoia
for I have brought myself before you
nakedly awaiting you’re ok
could I be that I annoy you
flaunting ways that I adore you
I have no control here either wayI awake at night with it
and in spite of it
it unravels me
it’s begun to frighten me

is it so that my persistence
blocks the path of least resistance
maybe I’m just getting in your way

but i’m alright
if you’re ok

Can you offer some assistance
Let me in on how for instance
I should be convincing you to sway

I awake at night with it
and in spite of it
it unravels me
it’s begun to frighten me
but I’m alright
if you’re ok

I’m alright if you’re ok

Writer(s): Ben Mink, K. D. Lang

1 Comment

  1. Hope and fear…. now there’s a sudden light bulb. I’m struggling with those and didn’t even realize it. Once again your words have cleared something up. I thank you for it. I think. This is going to be a long path and there are a lot of potholes I can already see….. so what’s new? I’ve been going through a really blank spell, not knowing which direction I am or even want to go. This should be interesting.


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