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Isn't it Ironic?

Reflection by Bishop Tony Green

Isn't it Ironic?


There's a song titled "Ironic" by a pop/rock artist named Alanis Morrisette. It's a song that grabbed my attention when I first heard it several years ago. I can't say I'm a real fan of Alanis Morissette's music, but I do like the lyrics in many of her songs, especially this song.

I think the lyrics in her song "Ironic" are poetic. The first verse goes like this: "An old man turned ninety-eight – He won the lottery and died the next day – It's a black fly in your chardonnay – It's a death row pardon two minutes too late – Isn't it IronicĀ°don't you think."
The song goes on to other so-called ironies in life.

Well – poor Alanis – her critics say that she doesn't understand what the word "ironic" means. I think she's just misunderstood. That's why I'm about to come to her defense over her use of the word ironic.

Some of the commentators on her song say that winning the lottery and dying the next day isn't ironic – it's just bad luck! And, they say that a black fly in your chardonnay – that's not irony – that's just nasty! A death row pardon, two minutes too late – well, that one is just frightening!

The textbook definition of "irony" is the contrary of what is expressed, or the opposite to what is or might be expected. The reality of human life is, I believe, often contrary to what is expected in our very materialistic society. In fact, the reality of human life is most often the opposite of what we might expect; most people live like they will never die.

I think the critics are missing the point of Alanis' lyrics. I think the irony she expresses isn't in the specifics of the life situations she names. The irony is in the bigger picture of expectation and reality in life. The irony is in the great American expectation of a good life with good things, then facing reality that sometimes, even in America, you can have the best of everything, yet having the best of everything in our material world somehow doesn't produce the best life after all.


Where's the irony in your life?  And, where is God in the irony?

Bp. Tony Green