As I was driving into work the other day, I put on some U2 and some Coldplay. What’s interesting to me is, despite the intervening decades, the thematic similarities of two very different songs:
With or Without You and
The former is of course found on U2’s seminal album, The Joshua Tree; the latter on Coldplay’s X&Y. Musically, and lyrically, they’d ostensibly very different songs, but in my mind (a very crowded place) they’re birds of a feather. (Don’t believe me? Listen to them back-to-back).
What do I mean?
Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial, clichéd rock, you know the refrain from U2’s song:
“I can’t live with or without you.” Which to me sounds like nothing so much as codependence. (“And you give, and you give, and you give yourself away…”)
So what does one do when one “can’t live with or without you?” Why one will try to “fix you”:
“Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you”
It’s all a very nice sounding sentiment–until you think about it. What lights? And that bit about bones is rather creepy–I mean I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my bones lit up like a funeral pyre!
I kid of course. It’s that last line that’s most disturbing to me: “I will try to fix you.” Why? When you can’t even get your own life straight? This is the last desperate, yet ongoing, act of codependency:
When I can’t live with–or without–you, I will try to fix you. Lather, rinse repeatedly, ad infininitum dominoes-for-biscuits. I’m serious. I’ve seen the dysfunction. I’ve been a people-pleaser. I know.
I’m not saying these are bad songs–quite the reverse, actually–they’re insanely well-crafted, seminal songs–yet I wonder how often we take the time to think through the ideological implications of our pop cultural phenomenons? I say this half in jest, but husbands, and wives, why don’t you just try to “fix” your respective spouses, ok? Report back to me when you’re done (or done in).
The fact is: what sounds nice in a song sometimes has very little practical application in the arena of life. Coldplay’s guiding “lights” offer scant more than cold comfort.
C.S. Lewis addresses similar implications, with regard to education, in his excellent The Abolition of Man. Put another way, in the arena of pop culture, we often strain out the gnats, and swallow camels.
Look no further than, for instance, Katy Perry’s E.T.. It’s got a beat, and you can dance to it: but when is it ever OK to be a victim? Let me be blunt: this always tolerating the status quo because we can’t live with, or without someone–or something–this trying to fix, or be fixed, by someone–or something–often leads us a place where we are willing victims, willingly victimized for the sake of a fix.
Yet we can’t even fix ourselves–let alone another person. Heck, even God doesn’t step in–unless we invite him. (Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in…”).
Instead of “fix you,” I humbly submit the cry (to God–not a spouse, friend, significant other–to God) should be simply “Fix me.”
What do you think? Am I reading too much into these songs? Let me know in the comments.