Monday, October 24, 2016

An appreciation: "Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M.

There is a collection of about 10-15 bands that I listen to on a regular basis.

R.E.M. is one of them.

Yes, somewhere Dorkland's Chris Helton is whining "NOSTALGIA!" but I'm okay with that.

While I enjoy the large body of R.E.M.'s work, I must admit to being lukewarm on the song "Everybody Hurts." Don't get me wrong. I appreciate what the song says and that a band like R.E.M. is saying it, but at the same time I find it to be rather simplistic. Turns out there's a reason for that. In the liner notes to the band's 1988-2003 Best Of collection, Peter Buck writes that the lyrics are simple and straightforward because the song was written for teenagers. "I've never seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the idea that high school is a portal to hell seems pretty realistic to me." Preach, brother.

Still, even though I didn't like the song, the video was striking.

It takes place at an interchange between two interstates. Traffic snarls up, as traffic tends to do, and all cars come to a stop. As the camera pans over the long line of halted cars, subtitles super up and we can read the thoughts of the occupants. Said thoughts range from the slightly humorous to the ominous to the soul-crushingly heavy:

"Please stop singing."
"There's nothing I can do."
"I don't have time." (if I translated the Spanish correctly.)
"She's gone."

This part of the video honestly did change my life, even if in just a small way. I liken it to that chestnut from Plato: "Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." It is so easy to forget that fact. Thanks to this video, I never look at being stuck in traffic the same way. Even while cursing over my fortune or worrying that I'm going to be late, I look over at other drivers and wonder what they are going through. What trials are they facing? What compunctions must they live with? How close are they to giving up?

Chances are, no one but they will ever know. And that's the truth, isn't it? We're all stuck here, trying to get through the same things.

The video ends as each of the cars' passengers get out and walk. Eventually, they disappear. It's a marvelous quota. I've often mused while stuck in traffic that such an act would be fun, a senseless "stick it to the man" gesture for trapping our lives in this roadway system that is a byproduct of that machination known as capitalism. Let's just leave these metal husks behind for "the man" to deal with because dammit, we're worth more than spending our lives in traffic so that we can go pay bills and die.

As I end so many of these blog posts: We should all be so lucky.

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