After supper comes dessert. Pudding. But “how can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?”
Bringing up “Supper’s Ready” means rattling that dangerous chain of signifiers that includes Bible, religion, Revelation, apocalypse. In the mid 1970’s, we knew about zombies, but there was not yet any strong popular associative tendril between zombies and apocalypse. A more likely association, at least in my neck of the woods, was with Hal Lindsay’s popularization of dispensationalist theology in The Late, Great Planet Earth (1970) and other books (precursors to the more recent Left Behind series).
What comes after (ooh, we need a Terje Rypdal soundtrack here!), or the end (Doors?), in this case is the eschaton, the culmination, the “last things” in the argot of Christian theology. The supper of the Lamb that is the last one. Not “the last Supper” before the arrest of Jesus, but the LAST supper, when time shall be no more. THE LAMB of the biblical Apocalypse, or Book of Revelation (please don’t add an ‘s’ to the end; in the biblical text, it’s THE REVELATION of the Christ, not a book of predictions!), it’s THAT LAMB whose Supper is ready on 1972’s Foxtrot.
What comes After Supper, then? What’s the dessert? Selling England by the Pound (1973) would rightly be called pudding as opposed to dessert (arguably motivated in part by a desire to keep Genesis’ image veddy British), but what we’re worried about here is The Lamb, the one that Lies Down on Broadway. Off to America with a vengeance? No, I won’t chase any speculations of posturing in relation to The Pond. The connection that stands out here is THE LAMB. Having any knowledge of “Supper’s Ready,” how could one possibly avoid bringing to Rael’s story an ear prepared for the continuing adventures of that same Lamb, the true dessert course after The Lamb’s Supper? If we consider this as one possible gaze (regard), what do we see?
“Religion” is such a problematic word. It probably originally meant something like “binding,” and this probable meaning still seems to echo loudly when its friends and foes both react to the various ways, both good and bad, in which we might think ourselves “bound.” But let’s use it for the moment. Sure, we can find some religious themes in The Lamb, even besides the obvious figure of the title, but aren’t they much more subtle, more muted? And isn’t the climax this time much more clearly in tune with Eastern religion, where “you are that” (Tat Tvam Asi)?
What does The Lamb have in common with “Supper’s Ready” that might be construed in “religious” terms? I’ll cut to my chase. One central figure, but in each case the canvas is made of relationships. Lovers. Sex partners (casual or not). Siblings. Others whom one wants to trust. Others who might deceive, who might betray one’s trust. Others who comically conform to stereotypes, or who fail to conform. Others with whom one might belong, or with whom one (hopefully) does not belong. Must experience be solitary and lonely, or can it be shared? Can’t you feel OUR souls ignite? Or do others end up as silent sorrow in empty boats?
Remember that, for some streams of Christian theology, God is the “Wholly Other.” Mightn’t Otherness be considered THE “religious” question, or problem? THE site of the opening of the “religious”? If it is not Other, then I cannot love it. If it is not Other, then neither calling nor command could issue from it.
Now step slightly to your left. Keep that same basic gaze, but shift it over here, ever so slightly. Here are lyrics that we might call “religiously loaded.” There are lyrics about love and longing for an Other. Do you see any line of demarcation, any dividing boundary between the two? I don’t. I suspect that one of the places this will eventually lead us is a meeting of two Doctors (Dyper and Freud); the lack of separation here has always been palpable as far as I can tell. But that meeting will have to do with “sex,” which we will treat under a separate gaze (at least one). The differences between the gazes is provisional and strategic.
The Lamb is a sacrificial figure. It is The Lamb that is slain (lies down). (Death is here, and will be a more vocal visitor in gazes to come.) When The Lamb lies down, is it not with The Lion?
Suppose “religious” has everything to do with Otherness, longing and love. Suppose, under the provisional shade of “religion,” that I (or You, or Rael) could not be God. (Leave aside, for the moment, that heroic/pathetic voice in the Third Impression of “Karn Evil 9,” desperately intoning: “I am all there is!”) Suppose that dessert cannot be eaten alone, that pudding must be shared.
Suppose the Last Things are Others. Listen to the Lamb, with Rael as background rather than foreground, with Others as the foreground. Have you ever noticed how many there are, other than Rael, or how his story is as much a story about those Others? About Otherness? It is that which I am recommending here as a “religious” gestalt, a gaze at The Lamb that comes after Supper.
Some of the other gazes may spring from some of those Others, but perhaps it will be helpful to see them first from here.