Suicide, the Occult, and the Next Generation: Optimistic Nihilism in Pop Music Pt. 3

Suicide, the Occult, and the Next Generation: Optimistic Nihilism in Pop Music Pt. 3 August 5, 2019

I finished the last post in this series with an open question. The existential conundrum that Bad Bunny conveys in his music–between an attitude of complacency/distraction and openness/seeking truth–represents the experience of many who are on the cusp of Gens Y and Z (millennials and the iGen). This teetering between poles can prove exhausting…Where can they find respite? What are the options available to them? 

One is that of the Nueva Religion: optimistic nihilism. Accept that meaning is not created or “given,” and that existence is meaningless beyond the truths we create for ourselves. In this case, we can make our own meanings, we can be “true to ourselves.” If you’re happy partying, smoking, getting drunk, having lots of sex…or if you want to opt for the more simple pleasures of finding someone to “have feelings for,” or hanging out with friends…do what makes you feel good. You can aim for more lofty ideals like success, fame, or social justice…the dream of “making the world a better place.” At the end of the day, it’s all relative. Be true to yourself. Do whatever feels right. 

Once that feeling starts to crack, there’s the path of seeking transcendence. Bad Bunny passively asks God for answers to his questions. But others may find it more appealing to ask those questions with fervor, passion, and devotion. What Charles Taylor calls the “age of disenchantment” is cracking; many young people are turning  to traditional religion as a solution. Some find in it a life-giving alternative to the stifling confines of secularism, while others find an antidote to their fear of the empty promises of the cult of the ephemeral.  There is a lasting hope in traditional religion’s claim to eternal truth and constancy…to something that withstands the test of time.

But let’s assume that there’s no God, that life really is meaningless, and that no matter how much we distract ourselves, that dark cloud of sadness…that sense of emptiness will continue to rear its ugly head. If existence is really so empty, then the only logical solution is to not exist. Unfortunately, more and more young people are going down this route, as witnessed by the disturbing increase in suicide rates. The theme of suicide never shows up explicitly in Bad Bunny’s lyrics, but has appeared in the music of several other popular singers (XXXTentacion, Billie Eilish).

The last route synthesizes the previous three. Occult spirituality acknowledges that there is “something beyond” this earthly realm. Cuspers are likely attracted to the occult for the same reason they are interested in traditional religion: it fills in the cracks left open by the age of disenchantment. But rather than seeking to obey the spiritual order of reality/nature, the occult attempts to harness spiritual forces and use them for selfish interests. Traditional religions teach that we ought to conform our lives to God’s will. The occult teaches that reality can be conformed to fit our own will, and that supernatural powers can aid us in this endeavor. 

Bad Bunny’s music videos and Instagram pictures are chock full of occult symbolism: the Masonic all-seeing eye, the Mark of the Beast (triple 6 hand signal), dualistic black and white themes, levitation, split/manipulated identities, and burnt human sacrifices recur throughout his videos. The reference to rabbits in his stage name is likely an homage to the oft-used symbol associated with MK Ultra: bunny ears. 

Though for many, the concern about entertainers dabbling in the occult is the stuff of conspiracy theories, one need not be zany or irrational to recognize the growing popularity of occult practices among the youth. A trip to Urban Outfitters’ book section will give you a sense of what I mean. There seems to be a demand for books on spells, potions, harnessing energy through crystals, and reading tarot cards. Being a witch is rather #woke, apparently. While some may laugh it off as a fad, can we really be surprised that the flat, empty ways of secularism have given rise to an interest in the supernatural? The occult perfectly blends the desire to commune with the spirit world with postmodern individualism and relativism. 

And while some will dismiss Bad Bunny as yet another pop music fad, I think he deserves serious attention. There’s much to be learned about and from the latest generation. Simply imposing previous frameworks of truth and meaning on them will prove futile. We’d best heed Pope Francis’ advice and listen to the voice of the younger generation in order to better understand their needs. Bad Bunny’s voice is a good place to start.

This article is the third in a three part series on Bad Bunny and Optimistic Nihilism. Check out parts one and two.

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