In his seminal (and admittedly half-serious) article “On Advancement”, Chuck Klosterman defines “Advancement” as: 

“A cultural condition where an Advanced Individual – i.e. a true genius – creates a piece of art that 99 percent of the population perceives as bad. However, this perception is not because the work itself is flawed; this perception is because most consumers are not Advanced.”

“Now, do not make the mistake of inferring that this means that everything terrible is actually awesome, or vice versa; that kind of contrarianism has no place in Advancement Theory. The key to Advancement is that Advanced artists (a) do not do what is expected of them, but also (b) do not do the opposite of what is expected of them. If an artist simply does the direct opposite of what is anticipated, they are classified as “overt”… The bottom line is this: when a legitimate genius does something that seems crazy, it does not mean they suddenly suck; what it means is that they are doing something you cannot understand, because they have Advanced beyond you.”

Later in the essay, Klosterman quotes one of the two so-called Advancement Theory founders, Jason Hartley: “I find Sting unlistenable. But I know that Sting is Advanced. He must be super-Advanced, and I just don’t understand him. It’s kind of like when Einstein came up with the Theory of Relativity – there were still parts of that theory that even Einstein could not understand. Those concepts were left for future generations.”

Well, say what you will about Advancement, but here’s my favorite Sting song, the overtly religious (and skeptical) “All This Time”. I believe he wrote it right after the death of his father:

I looked out across
The river today
I saw a city in the fog and an old church tower
Where the seagulls play
I saw the sad shire horses walking home in the sodium light
I saw two priests on the ferry
October geese on a cold winter’s night

And all this time, the river flowed
Endlessly to the sea

Two priests came round our house tonight
One young, one old, to offer prayers for the dying
To serve the final rite
One to learn, one to teach
Which way the cold wind blows
Fussing and flapping in priestly black
Like a murder of crows

And all this time, the river flowed
Endlessly to the sea
If I had my way I’d take a boat from the river
And I’d bury the old man,
I’d bury him at sea

Blessed are the poor, for they shall inherit the earth
Better to be poor than a fat man in the eye of a needle
And as these words were spoken I swore I hear the old man laughing
‘What good is a used up world and how could it be
Worth having’

And all this time the river flowed
Endlessly like a silent tear
And all this time the river flowed
Father, if Jesus exists,
Then how come he never lived here

The teachers told us, the Romans built this place
They built a wall and a temple, an edge of the empire Garrison town,
They lived and they died, they prayed to their gods
But the stone gods did not make a sound
And their empire crumbled, ’til all that was left
Were the stones the workmen found

And all this time the river flowed
In the falling light of a northern sun
If I had my way I’d take a boat from the river
Men go crazy in congregations
But they only get better
One by one