1 Feb 2009

So near and yet so far

Posted by jofr

Old songs such as “So Near And Yet So Far” or “All The Things You Are” may be a bit cheesy. Yet the feeling of craving, longing and yearning expressed in them is very human. The longing for love is indeed deeply human, especially if the object of desire is unreachable, just as the desire to find out what the point of living is. In German we have the word “Sehnsucht” for it. In WALL-E, the main character WALL-E (short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter-Earth Class) views old TV recordings with the help of an old VHS tape, although he is just a waste collection robot. Besides his tendency to collect things he finds interesting, it is this longing for love and companionship which makes him human. In the Star Trek films, it is also the longing for being human which makes the cyborg Commander Data more human than the humans themselves. Here are Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth with So Near Yet So Far:

I’ve a feeling you are
So near and yet so far
You appear like a radiant star
First so near, then again so far

Robert Browning said “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”. It is very human to be expelled from the paradise, to recognize something which is nearly within reach and yet unreachable, to see something which is “so near and yet so far”. If a machine can understand this problem, and enjoy a song like this, then it probably has reached human-level intelligence. Here is Helen Forrest with “All the Things You Are“, a classic love song that has been sung later by Ella Fitzgerald and Barbra Streisand.

Time and again Ive longed for adventure
Something to make my heart beat much faster
What did I long for, I never really knew.
Finding your love, I found my adventure,
Touching your hand my heart beat much faster
All that I want in all of this world is you.

You are the promised kiss of springtime
That makes the lonely winter seem long
You are the breathless hush of evening
That trembles on the brink of a lovely song.
You are the angel glow that lights the star,
The dearest things I know are what you are.
Someday my happy arms will hold you,
And someday Ill know that moment divine
When all the things you are, are mine.

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