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Drunk Tears on a Barren Sea: Augustinian Reflections on Desire

November 6th, 2023 | 21 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

Early in 2021, late in our great Covid pandemic, the sea-shanty took over Tik-Tok. The infectious tunes were introduced to a new generation by young Scottishman Nathan Evans, whose rendition of “Wellerman” was an instant hit. The sea shanty’s simple melody and repetitive choruses once served a practical function by fitting the cadences of work on seagoing vessels. Yet it also bound a crew together while they sang, forging a sense of togetherness and commonality that would be essential for the isolation of the seas. The songs are also perfectly formed for Tik-Tok’s layering effect, in which users remix other people’s videos. For one moment, the platform counteracted the isolating, divisive upheavals that Covid wrought.[1] The superficiality of the pleasure that brought people together was the point: if we could not agree on vaccines, we might at least all sing Wellerman.

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Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.