Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Yellow

When I was driving around on Sunday, I was listening to a composite of my Coldplay albums. At one point, the song Yellow came on, and I stilled my automatic tendency to shoot past it. It's not that I hate the song; far from it. It might be the most beautiful song I've ever heard. It's a song that makes me want to believe in God.

I first heard it in the summer of 2004, shortly after a friend I'd known for ten years died, far, far too young, of cancer. The song tore my heart out every time I heard it, but not so much because it made me sad, but because it seemed to offer so much impossible hope. I don't listen to it often. I don't want to become jaded; for it to become just another song. It has the power, when I'm alone, to cause me not just to weep but actually to blubber, stone cold sober. And to me, that's a wonderful thing I'd be loathe to lose. So I leave the song alone, except…

It's been a year or two since I've indulged, and I wondered if it would still have that same power over me. Yeah. By the time the song arrived at its first chorus, I was in tears. And I remembered my friend.

Now I've heard the songwriter's official version of what the song means. If I recall correctly, it's about the love of a man for a woman. Pretty standard interpretation. But in university, I become convinced of the merits of deconstructionism, and so I know that meaning is not in the text. It's in what we bring to the text. It's in our personal experience and our understanding of the words themselves. Communication is an approximation at best; it happens inside the mind of each of us, and not so much between us. And so, without fear of contradiction, I can say that to me, the song means something else.

To me, this is the voice of some loving creator, declaring his love to every sentient being in his creation. Then the voice of that being made savior through his own actions and sacrifice in the world itself. The promise of life after death, of greater things than even this world. The melody of the song begins in turmoil, and alternates between peace and strife, finally ending with the most sublime stillness and intimacy. To me, this song is a masterpiece that humbles anything ponderous and circumspect by Bach or Handel. This is a depiction of a humble, loving, understanding God, speaking to the heart and soul of every creature with any kind of a mind…

Look at the stars:
Look how they shine for you
And everything you do
Yeah they were all yellow

I came along
I wrote a song for you
And all the things you do
And it was called 'Yellow'

So then I took my turn
Oh what a thing to've done
And it was all yellow

Your skin
Oh yeah your skin and bones
Turn into something beautiful
D'you know you know I love you so
You know I love you so

I swam across
I jumped across for you
Oh what a thing to do
Cause you were all yellow

I drew a line
I drew a line for you
Oh what a thing to do
And it was all yellow

Your skin
Oh yeah your skin and bones
Turn into something beautiful
D'you know for you I bleed myself dry
For you I bleed myself dry

Its true:
Look how they shine for you
Look how they shine for you
Look how they shine for you
Look how they shine for you
Look how they shine for you
Look how they shine for...

Look how they shine for you
Look how they shine for you
Look how they shine.

Look at the stars:
Look how they shine for you
And everything you do.


In my mind, I envision the video as formed by animations of simple children's drawings in crayon… bright splashes of waxy colour that shimmy and tremble with life, but dart around as though under the gaze of God. Souls in yellow, shining brightly and leaping free of tired, corrupt bodies they've enjoyed but no longer need; moving together, joining the stars of the song, and the brightest light of all.

It's not that I believe these things. Ultimately, I don't. I just yearn for them, dearly, to be true. This is how I want the world to be, though I know it isn't. But that I can derive such joy from the song just contemplating what could be is a wonder to me.

1 comment:

Peter said...

Interesting how your imagining of the filmclip differs from the actual one (don't watch if you haven't already and don't want your vision contradicted):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAME8GDRTfI
I find the significance you've attached to that Coldplay song quite beautiful.
Interesting too, the power of music.
I buried Dad last week and I've been listening to a stack of his Classical music CDs since then. There are meanings and some memories attached to many of the pieces and I'm not sure I'll ever be free of their personal significance and a large measure of attendant sadness.
Music can heal, I'm fairly convinced, but I think it's also a dialogue between the music and the meaning we attach to it that constitutes the healing.
Thanks for sharing this with us, Mr Primate.