The letters Havel wrote to his wife, Olga, while he was in prison were subjected to close scrutiny and censorship by the Communist authorities. He was not allowed to describe what was happening to him in prison or to write about his personal circumstances, only to write in generalities. And so he wrote philosophical discourses, with observations far more potent and consequential perhaps than his captors understood. This song is an attempt to give lyrical form to what Havel wrote, in the course of several letters, about the meaning of life.




score: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18


Songs for Vaclav Havel




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The Meaning of Life



Unfamiliar information

like some astronomic data

or a social calculation

that can be communicated

by someone who knows about it

to someone who doesn't:

That's not the meaning of life.


Any effort to project

the fundamental value

of existence as a quantity

as if it were a product

that is understood objectively

or graspable conceptually:

That's not the meaning of life.


If you think that you are great

or more important just by virtue

of your having learned

some rudimentary information

that some others to their sorry fortune

haven't yet discovered:

That's not the meaning of life.


People can't be divided up

Into two antithetical groups --

those who are informed and those who aren't,

the cognoscenti and the dupes.


History has demonstrated

that when people find themselves

believing that the truth

is a commodity and that the world

can be improved by spreading

their beliefs as fast as possible:

That's not the meaning life.


When illusions lead

to the conviction that to propagate

a fundamental truth,

the end will justify

whatever means is necessary,

that the most effective means is violence:

That's not the meaning of life.


Any notion of some finite

knowledge that untangles

every problem and discourages

discovery or any further

exploration or investigation

of our basic values:

That's not the meaning of life.


Anything meaningful that's ever been said,

Including every good religious book,

Is remarkable for what is not defined,

For it's incomplete outlook.


Something that is in agreement

with our inner understanding,

something that obliges us

or overwhelms or speaks to us

and never tries to answer

but suggests a way to live with questions:

That's the meaning of life.