The power of words

This post is a follow up post from We Used to Wait and once again involves Arcade Fire. If you haven’t gathered by now, I rather like them.

I was listening to their debut album again, also fantastic, and was listening to their song Rebellion (Lies). Before I discuss my thoughts on it, it’s important you know the lyrics, so I’ve included them with the video below.


Sleeping is giving in,

no matter what the time is.
Sleeping is giving in,
so lift those heavy eyelids.

People say that you’ll die
faster than without water.

But we know it’s just a lie,
scare your son, scare your daughter.

People say that your dreams
are the only things that save ya.
Come on baby in our dreams,
we can live on misbehavior.

Every time you close your eyes
Lies, lies! (x4)
Every time you close your eyes (x4)

People try and hide the night
underneath the covers. (x2)

Come on hide your lovers underneath the covers (x2)

Hidin’ from your brothers
underneath the covers,
come on hide your lovers
underneath the covers.

People say that you’ll die
faster than without water,
but we know it’s just a lie,
scare your son, scare your daughter (x3)

Now here’s the sun, it’s alright!
(Lies, lies!)
Now here’s the moon, it’s alright!
(Lies, lies!)(x2)

Every time you close your eyes
Lies, lies! (x4)

Every time you close your eyes (x3)

The reason I chose to include those lyrics is because it is important that you get what the song is saying. Or at least, what is said.

On first listen, and many following listens as well, this song seems to have an accurate title. It’s written about a man persuading someone else not to listen to the people around them, as they are liars.

The reason I say this is that one evening, I was listening to this and started to sing along to the chorus, as it’s rather catchy. Even though I don’t agree with it, I found myself saying it aloud and with gusto.

By just singing along, I was expressing agreement with the lyricist, and I don’t believe there is some big conspiracy in which we’re all being lied to. On realising this, I stopped myself instantly.

As the song continued to repeat its refrain, I sat there silent. This didn’t feel any better. I had moved from support to acceptance, which while being an improvement, was still wrong.

What I wanted to do was to act on what I deemed to be true and oppose this fiction that was being presented. In order to explain how I did this, I need to discuss my reading material of late.

As I’ve noticed these blogs have a tendency to head towards the philosophical, quite unintentionally, I have decided to read up on the subject. As this blog is concerned with getting my ideas, thoughts and feelings across, I figured that communication studies would make sense as a start point.

The area I am currently looking at is Semiotics, the use of symbols and codes. This is one of the main ways we connect with each other.

One example of this is in language. Every word is a symbol for some more complex meaning behind it. The word dog is a symbol for the meaning behind it, which is different for every person who hears it. Consider the difference between a pet owner’s and a vet’s idea of the exact definition.

Back to my original point, the song. The line I wanted to sing was “every time you close your eyes, Lies, Lies” but I didn’t agree with the author’s intention.

I started to think about the eyes, and I hit upon a possible meaning that I liked. It became for me a very simple and straightforward metaphor about staying awake spiritually.

If we being to fall asleep spiritually then Satan, the slanderer-liar, will pour lies into our ears. I therefore took the line to mean that; that every time we let our guard down a voice tempts us with fabrications of fancy.

What I did next was to sing this loud on top of what they were singing. I was proclaiming my truth over theirs and it is this moment that requires some thought.

Now some may say that this was a little excessive and perhaps it was. Regardless, some interesting points must be made.

With words being as vague as they are, can we guarantee that we always know the writer’s intent? I would argue not, though we can make informed guesses when we are aware of the context. This includes the surrounding text, its intended purpose and audience as well as details of the person who wrote it.

This point becomes particularly important when considering faith. I recently read a very good post on the subject of what it means to praise, which can be found here.

This clearly has an impact when singing in worship. We should all be fully aware of what’s coming out of our mouth and what we are publicly agreeing with. Of course full awareness is nigh on impossible, but we must at least have some comprehension.

This also has very simple ramifications when reading the Bible. Do you simply accept your first thoughts about the intended meaning or do you dig to find the real context? Then you have the question of how deep you go, not stopping till you know all the author’s generational issues.

Of course, none of these questions have a definitive answer, but it was something I thought worth sharing. As always, your thoughts, if any, are welcome below.

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