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Top 40 Philosophy: Darius Rucker, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

Posted in Friendly Philosophy, Music, and Top 40 Philosophy

As of my writing this, we have done one song each from the top three albums on Billboard’s Holiday Albums chart. For today, then, we have album #4, Darius Rucker’s, Home for the Holidays. The album peaked at #2, however, so let’s take its 2nd song today: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” (Warning for Originalists: Rucker sings the happy line, not the sad line.)

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was originally sung by Judy Garland in the intriguingly-odd Meet Me in St. Louis. In the movie — during an absolutely heart-breaking scene — Ms. Garland sings:

Someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow

Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow

Sinatra asked the song’s lyricist, Hugh Martin, to change the line, and that’s how we ended up with “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.”

Sinatra, however, was evidently just carrying on a tradition of telling Martin that the song was too depressing, and he needed to change the lyrics. The original lyrics were even more . . . sobering. So, here’s the question: Is it even the same song anymore?

There’s an ancient philosophical puzzle called “The Ship of Theseus.” Imagine you are in a boat carrying lumber. As you sail along, you find yourself having to constantly replace pieces of the ship with new pieces made from the lumber you’re carrying. By the time you reach your destination, in fact, you’ve had to replace every single piece of the ship. So, is the ship you arrive in the same as the ship you left in? It has completely different parts. Does that make it a completely different whole?

With “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” we might say it’s the same song because only the lyrics were changed, while the melody remained the same. People often say something similar about humans. Even though every cell in your body supposedly gets replaced every seven years (I’ve never bothered to check if that’s actually a fact), your mind or soul remains the same throughout. So, you’re the same person now because a part of you has been the same the whole time.

Other people, of course, will say that because your body is always changing, your soul isn’t just a part of you. Your soul is you. But, then again, some people say there’s no such thing as souls.

So, what do you think? Are you the same being (the same whole thing) as you were seven years ago, even if all your parts are different now? Or do you need one part to be the same the whole way through? Or is that “one part” (your mind/soul) actually the whole you, with all the changing “parts” (your body) being more like clothes that your true self has been wearing and changing?


The Hidden Track

Q: What kind of philosophy were we doing today?

A: Mereology, Philosophy of Mind.

Continue your investigation at:


  1. Going further… if our bodies are different every seven years, then, do our souls also renew themselves? Since our souls (emotions/mind/will) are so much a part of our brains (which are renewed every seven years)… Since our flesh is so much a part of who we are as created beings, (necessitating Christ to take on a body of flesh for eternity so He could relate to us) would we be able to have emotions/mind/will without brains of flesh?… as humans, can our spirits/souls exist without our bodies? Is it necessary for God to give us “resurrected bodies” on the other side in order for our souls and/or spirits to exist? Tell me Micah! I want to know!

    December 16, 2014
  2. Never fear, Patty! I have the answers to all your questions!

    Or maybe not.

    From what I can tell, the New Testament holds the soul to survive the death of the body, and then to be “breathed back into” (or something to that effect) the resurrected/glorified body at the Resurrection. That would imply that whatever dependence the soul has on the body is one that it can “break,” at least for a while.

    However, I do think that the soul without the body is incomplete. Or, rather, I think the human person is part soul, part body; so you don’t have a complete person without both. That’s why there has to be a resurrection, and we can’t just live as pure spirits forever (like Plato would have wanted). If we did, we’d be half-people, not full-people.

    But none of that answers your question about whether the changing of the body’s cells also produces a change in the soul. I’m going to have to ponder that. It seems to me that if “emergentism” is right (, the constant change in the body would have to have some effect on the soul. But I’m not yet sure how to square emergentism with Scripture.

    December 16, 2014

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