David Crosby's "Laughing" turns 50

In the latest installment of his wonder-filled Burning Shore newsletter, Boing Boing pal Erik Davis dons the music critic hat, and unearths a true gem: David Crosby's 1971 enchanting and piercing song Laughing.

With his usual flair and subtlety, Erik provides context for the song and surgically dissects its lyrics, unleashing hidden layers of meaning and beauty to flow along with the bewitching sounds.

Laughing is Erik's favorite "seeker song" of the countercultural era.

We don't use the term "seeker" much these days, which is kind of a shame.

As the religious historian Leigh Schmidt illuminates in his book Restless Souls, the modern sense of "seeker" emerges at the end of the nineteenth century, as liberal Protestantism gets so loose that it arguably ceases being Christianity, and becomes Transcendentalism, or New Thought, or Theosophy, or, increasingly, something undefined and personal, roving and uprooted from homegrown traditions, open to ideas and symbols and practices from around the world, particularly the East, and especially keen on cultivating direct experience of the sacred. The seeker sensibility would bloom significantly in the postwar world. The Beats took it up in the fifties, as did many of their beatnik followers, and so too the far more numerous hippies and travelers and self-realizers and proto-New Agers of the late '60s and '70s, many of whom would self-identify as "seekers."

In the eyes of many social critics, the seeker was nothing more than the pupa stage for today's spiritual consumer: an atomized neoliberal self-empowerment junkie, mixing and matching a "cafeteria religion" and pampering the ego they are claiming to overcome. Perhaps we no longer speak of seekers because we are more comfortable as finders, or better yet, buyers — not just of Goop chakra tech, but of lifestyles, or Instagram paradigms, or self-help regimens that buffer us from the dark nights and stark confrontations that arguably undergird authentic spirituality.

But let's not toss the baby out with the Emotional Detox Soak bathwater. In my (admittedly slanted) view, a mature seeker is, like the Beats of yore, a spiritual existentialist. The seeker is not a finder, or a knower, or a master. They are always on the road, or traversing, even drifting, along Krishnamurti's "pathless path." (…) Longing fuels the entire quest, and that longing is always oriented to the beyond, to the not-yet, to a liberation that almost certainly won't happen the way one imagines, and may very well not happen at all.

Read the rest here.