More than occasionally, a song will catch my interest, and I’ll play it again and again, mulling over its meaning in my mind. I have no way of knowing, of course, whether the meaning I come up with is what the artist intended, but that doesn’t really matter. Once the artist puts it out there, it’s fair game for interpretation, and particularly in the age of instant access through the Internet, authorial intent means little.
But I digress.
The song I’m currently listening to is “Cough Syrup” by Young the Giant. If you haven’t heard it, check it out:
Go ahead, I’ll wait.
The lyrics resonate with me. Let me just ramble a minute about a few of them.
Cough syrup. Everyone’s looking for a cure, for something to quiet the noise, to sooth the scratchiness that comes from being on the up side of the dirt and daisies.
I think the song is about anti-conformity. It’s about the struggle of being someone that everyone else isn’t. Not because you want to be, but just because you are. It’s a recognition that society, church, government and sometimes even your friends and family want you to fit in.
“These zombies in the park they’re looking for my heart.” If there’s anything that represents conformity in popular culture, it’s zombies. George Romero knew that. (Watch Dawn of the Dead and tell me he’s not making a statement about how consumerism makes conformists of us all in American society.) Zombies right now are enjoying a certain popularity. They’re cool, they’re hip, they can be like your best friends. Really? There is nothing more un-cool than a zombie. Zombies are mindless killing machines. They are the masses who never question why, who never “burn, burn, burn” as Jack Kerouac said, who are content with a day-in-day-out mundane existence. And that’s all it is — simple existence until the day you die. Survival.
But as The Offspring sang in “Staring at the Sun,” there’s more to living than only surviving.
The spark you carry inside threatens that existence, be it a spark of creativity, of life, of joyousness. Even of depression. Zombies have no emotions. They want to scoop the emotions from your soul, lop off your highs and lows until you are mono-emotion and don’t feel anything. Like them.
“If I could find a way to see this straight I’d run away to some fortune that I should have found by now.” There are always people to tell you that “this” will make you happier. That if you just iron out the kinks and wrinkles that make you different from everyone else, it will make you successful. Whether it’s eating your peas and carrots or minding your P’s and Q’s, if you’d just go along life would make sense.
“And so I run back to the things they say could restore me, restore life the way it should be.” I usually think of church at this point. That’s one of the great answers to anyone’s struggles — go to church. No one ever tells you that that’s just going to cause more struggles to fit in. Go to church, get more education, stop taking illgal drugs, start taking legal ones, get a good paying job, stop looking at porn, if you’re gay become straight, if you’re straight, stop sleeping around, get married, have children. And THEN you’ll be happy, you’ll experience life the way it should be. (Caveat — life the way it should be in zombie terms, not your own terms.)
As Young the Giant goes on, “I’m waiting for this cough syrup to come down.”
You can kill the life inside you. The world will be a poorer place for that. “A dark world aches for a splash of the sun.”
I’m not giving in. “There’s more to living than only surviving. Maybe I’m not there, but I’m still trying.”