Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Freshman

The Verve Pipe has a beautiful and heartbreaking song entitled "The Freshman." For reasons I can't wholly explain, it really touches me (I'm not alone in that; it was, and still is, a classic.) The most amazing part of the song is the way that it rises in pain to reach a crescendo...there's a lot of passion in the way he sings the lyrics.

The song is about a freshman couple, a guy and a girl. The girl becomes pregnant and the guy tells her to have an abortion. She does so, they don't get married, and while the guy goes off for a week's vacation to try to forget about her, she commits suicide by overdosing on valium. But it's not the story of the song that grips me so much as the way he sings the lyrics.

The way I interpret the song, despite the fact that he asserts "I can't be held responsible," in truth he is damning himself. To me it seems as though the song is his outlet to express his anger with himself, and the very fact that he is stating "I can't be held responsible" is his way of trying to deal with the bewilderment, confusion and pain. He starts out thoughtful, but gets to a point where he sings the verses with so much passion, and to me that expresses his anger...with himself. Also, the way that I see it, when he sings the lines, "I can't be held responsible/ 'Cause she was touching her face" that refers to the baby. So the baby was female and in the sonogram she was touching her face, but the man nonetheless forced his girlfriend into having the abortion. The second line, "I won't be held responsible/ She fell in love in the first place" refers, of course, to his girlfriend.

The saddest part of the song is the chorus:

For the life of me I cannot remember
What made us think that we were wise and we'd never compromise
For the life of me I cannot believe we'd ever die for these sins
We were merely freshmen

And then the next section of poetic lyrics:

We've tried to wash our hands of all of this
We never talk of our lack in relationships
And how we're guilt stricken sobbin' with our heads on the floor
We fell through the ice when we tried not to slip, we'd say

I think that's a brilliant line.

We fell through the ice when we tried not to slip...

It's matched by a line of out Metallica's "No Leaf Clover:"

Then it comes to be that the soothing light at the end of your tunnel/ Was just a freight train coming your way.

It's the same idea in both phrases.

There's something terribly human in the song; it reaches out and grips you, almost shaking you by the collar, telling you to wake up and listen because this is telling you the story of your own life. Not that we have necessarily made mistakes of this magnitude but who hasn't known everything when they were young? And our mistakes are generally major; despite our best efforts, we fell through the ice when we tried not to slip. But it's the lesson that I think is the most amazing part of the song...he works it through in his mind, protesting even as he blames himself, and to me it is almost mournful, lamenting...we were only freshmen; that should have protected us. And somehow, despite everything, this song is life-affirming. Perhaps it's just the way it touches me...perhaps it's the fact that the human condition is so beautifully expressed.

Who hasn't been guilt stricken sobbing with my head on the floor?

But we get up, move on and move forward- and perhaps it's the story beyond the song that I am envisioning that makes it seem so powerful and true to me. "The Freshman" doesn't end there; these freshmen grow up, and this event changes them- and I think, transforms them into better people. People are improved through encountering pain.


Jewish Atheist said...

People are improved through encountering pain.Back when I believed in God, I did something really stupid. I decided that life had been too easy and that I lacked wisdom because of it. So I asked God for some difficulties.

Then (not that I believe God had anything to do with it) I had one difficulty after another for a few years. It really sucked. But I guess I am wiser now, and maybe better.

I thought that story was going to be more interesting than it was. Oh well.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

It's funny, I found myself singing this song to myself for the past few days, even though I haven't heard it a long while.. ..I think it makes me look a bit weird, but I've gotta' sing sometimes..

I must say though, I've always found it to be a good idea to consider the psychological ramifications of these popular lyrics, especially since that's not quite a popular branch of study today (as is, for example, literary analysis).

Nice change from those Calvin and Hobbes cartoons by the way, this is more serious. Though it's a bit "pritzusdik", but as Obama said, women today have the right to bear arms..

Gavi said...

A painful experience can destroy a person, or improve them - like any other life experience.

It is up to us to choose how we experience things - do they build us?

(I also second Shlomo's comments regarding your banner...)

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Oh man, she took down the new header! I think I said too much!