When I studied music with John Seagle (of Seagle’s Music Colony fame), one of the songs that ran around the colony that summer was Alfie. I remember a girl named Susie did a marvelous job communicating the import of the popular 1960’s tune. Dionne Warwick recorded it, as did Cher and others, and it hit a cultural nerve both musically and cinematically. Here are Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s lyrics:
What’s it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give
or are we meant to be kind?
And if only fools are kind, Alfie;
then, I guess it’s wise to be cruel.
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie,
what will you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there’s a heaven above, Alfie,
I know there’s something much more,
something even non-believers can believe in.
I believe in love, Alfie.
Without true love we just exist, Alfie.
Until you find the love you’ve missed you’re nothing, Alfie.
When you walk let your heart lead the way
and you’ll find love any day, Alfie, Alfie.
The opening phrase resonates with the ponderings of millions of souls today. They go to bed wondering. They awaken to doubts about the value of their existence and the true purpose of their predicable routines. And quietly but desperately they search their day for that special something in which to hang their passions upon– something of substance and meaning that won’t leave them empty and lonely once the party’s over.
Does the Alfie song deliver what people are looking for? In the Alfie film, the title character, a free-roaming womanizer, could let his ideas flow through the words of the song, which I’ll summarize below:
“People everywhere are questioning and asking, “Why am I doing all this and what does it all mean? Am I here to make money or to be kind to others? Some demand that only fools care while another tribe cries that to believe in religion is a path for fools. But somehow I believe that love is the highest I can hope for. So, I’ll follow my heart, and hopefully, find my meaning in life.”
Here’s what I think about Alfie’s views: they’re half-baked. Yes, people are searching for meaning. But religion and kindness alone will not give you what you need. And love? Oh, Alfie, too many have tried it, only to be disappointed by its frailty in enduring the hurt of unfaithfulness and separation. And don’t get me started about “letting my heart lead the way,” because that pumping muscle has led me wrong way too many times to be trusted to reveal life’s ultimate purpose for my being!
What’s it all about, Alfie? It’s about remembering that you are a created being, given life by the ingenuity and purposefulness of Living God and promised an enduring hope through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Master is all you’re longing for and really what you’ve been searching for all your life. So stop singing, Alfie, and start thinking about a Love that never dies and a hope that will carry you beyond today to the eternal now of Heaven. That’s what it’s all about, dear Alfie, and it can begin right now, as you turn your life over to Christ!