The Inexhaustible Poetics of Sonseed

Writing for By Way of Beauty often yields some incredible discoveries. Sometimes this takes the form of mining out some gem of philosophical truth and/or spiritual wisdom from films, songs, books, or shows we've long been familiar with - other times, it means coming across an unfamiliar artist whose words are stunningly and unexpectedly insightful.

The curious case of Sonseed is certainly the latter.

When we came across their little-known ska-infused masterpiece from the 1980's, we were simultaneously elated and perturbed. The song is filled with such pathos and depth, oscillating the listener back and forth between copious tears and giddy insanity while listening - but surely, the inexhaustible mystery of its sagacious fabric would make an article well-nigh impossible.

Move over Da Vinci -
"The Sonseed Code" awaits.
How could one do more than but skim the surface of this modern-day Brothers Karamazov? Under what curse doth an essayist labor when he attempts to say more about the human experience than Sonseed has already said? How could one even dream of grappling with a song that has somehow managed, beyond all expectations, to break the chain of Bloom's "anxiety of influence," step out into the wild bright light of true originality, and with artistic talents unfathomable, compress all of the perspicacity of philosophy and theology and poetry into a single chorus - one that, by virtue of its intellectual depth and subtle and honest communication of zeal (a needed antidote to the obnoxiously simplistic, sing-songy, and self-gratifying fellowships and art rampant today that inflict, as Walker Percy saw it, untold "organic ailments" of "exhaustion and decrepitude" on crucial portions of language) will undoubtedly move each and every denizen of the increasingly secular and weary West to consider the far-reaching implications of responding to that unearned first movement of grace, including the obvious implication that affirming being and living not for "that relation which relates itself to itself" but radically for the other (including the ground of all otherness) will in no way lead one to the sacrifice of intellectual pursuits, but rather the supplementation needed to truly re-energize and stabilize them, as well as the overwhelming insinuation that faith satisfies a paradoxical human urge to both "care and not to care," and provides a way to be passionately in the world ("and still play rock and roll") but finally not of it?

In the end, we had to answer: we wouldn't dream of it. It is rare that we are reduced to silence - but in the case of Sonseed, "Jesus Is My Friend," there is literally nothing else to be said. They've said it all.

TS Eliot once remarked that Dante and Shakespeare divided the world between them - that there was no third. But our friend Thomas Stearns didn't live to see the 1980s, when Sonseed sang its sublime song. Had he been in the audience that day, surely he would've reconsidered...

Given what we've heard from this seraphic choir, the mystical ecstasy of the moustached guitar player seems rather understated - we're actually surprised that throughout the course of the song he isn't levitating above the portly man behind him.

We can only think of one other work that even comes close to rivaling Sonseed's masterpiece in its depiction of the ineffable and transformative promptings of grace (e.g., Aquinas' "Grace is said to be created when it is men who are created in grace, i.e., when they are created anew out of nothing") and in its reaffirmation of the compatibility of faith and reason, or fides et ratio - and that is Michael Clancey's perpetually underrated classic "God Is Doing a New Thang."

1:47 - 1:54 strikes a deep chord with us here at By Way of Beauty - coincidentally, that is the exact celebration we do whenever we receive a comment on one of our articles.

By the way - April Fools!


  1. I don't know which is funnier--the videos or your commentary.

    And I love your blog and have been reading for a while. Keep it up!

    1. PS. You may do the "OH OH OH" dance now....

    2. Oh - oh - oh yeah! Yeahhh!

      Thanks Brandon - glad someone got a chuckle out of it!

  2. Hahaha. LOVE it!

    And that had to have been one of the longest sentences I've ever come across (the one that starts just to the left of Mona Lisa's eyes). Very St. Paulesque of you!

    Keep up the great work!

    1. Thank you! Yes, we were trying to rival Faulkner's infamous sentence in "The Bear" - unfortunately we failed miserably. Glad you enjoyed it!

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  6. Hilarious! You totally got me. The whole time I was reading your post I was thinking: "Sonseed? Sonseed? Why am I just now hearing about this? I must learn more..."