Friday, November 21, 2008

The Wisdom of Floyd

The boys and I are huge YouTube fans. We love to browse for funny or interesting videos. Like any new internet venue, it's quickly becoming overrun with spammers and teenyboppers, er..I mean...tweenagers...but you can still find just about anything you could possibly think of...Schweatty balls, men in knee breeches, and nostalgia galore.

Last night after dinner, we were gathered around my computer watching our latest "can't stop singing that song" music videos. Mine was "1234", a choice that was not looked upon with favor by my boys. Andrew chose "Thanks for the Memories", a tune to which we all knew the words, and bobbed our heads in unison. When it was Randall's turn to choose, he asked to see the video for a song he had heard on the radio, but he didn't know the name, only the artist. Pink Floyd.

"How does it go?" I asked. "We don't need no education. We don't need no sound control" he sang. Then he quoted what was inarguably his favorite line in the whole song loudly, and with great gusto. "HEY TEACHERS! LEAVE THEM KIDS ALONE!!"

I couldn't help but smile. If ever there was an anthem written for Randall, that would be it. I pulled it up and played it for them. And then the questions started. "Why are their faces like that?" "Why are they going to school in a factory?""Why are they jumping into a meatgrinder?""Why is he hitting that kid? Teachers can't do that!""Why are they breaking their desks?"

Pffftttttt. I tried to formulate a response that would satisfy their curiosity without overwhelming them with a lot of details they couldn't process or understand. I paused the video and launched into what I hoped was an accurate and straightforward explanation. " see...this whole video is just one big social commentary." I lost Randall right there, but Andrew looked intrigued."Really? About what?" he asked.

"Well, different people have different interpretations. Some people think the it's a metaphor for a tryannical government that wants to deny the people free will and the right to voice dissent.""Hmmmmm." he said. He still looked interested, so I gathered he was following me."Other people think it's about a society that values conformity rather than individuality, and how it encourages people to follow blindly rather than thinking for themselves. How it's completing squelching any inclination or desire to be different."

Randall piped in to ask once again why their faces were like that. "The masks hide their identity so that nothing about them is distinguishable from the others. It obliterates their humanity. They become, just "another brick in the wall". Randall didn't get it. At 8, he's still very literal minded. "Are their faces all burnt or something?" Andrew rolled his eyes. "Their faces aren't burnt, duh. Mom just told you why they're wearing masks.""I don't get it." he said, clearly nonplussed about it. "Honey...if you look at the bricks in a wall...are they different from one another? If you took the bricks out of the wall, and mixed them all up in a pile, would you know which one was which? I saw the realization hit his eyes. "OOOOHHHHHHHH! The KIDS are the BRICKS. They're mad because they don't want to be all the same. They have ideas and stuff." "YES!!" I exclaimed, startling him a little. "But it could be just about kids who don't like school, couldn't it?""

Sure. It could. Sometimes, a songwriter wants the the listener to interpret the lyrics in their own way." "I think it's about that." "Then it is."He looked extraordinarily pleased with himself. And so, in a manner that I'm sure Pink Floyd never really intended, (unless the pop culture academics are wrong and it really is about a kid who hates school) "Another Brick in the Wall" became Randall's ode to academic disillusionment and malcontent. For became something different. It became a really salient example of the undeniable power of such a medium. It appealed to him and impressed him.

"Damn" he said quietly. I gave him my best displeased mother look. "Sorry Mom. But geez....that's just.....brilliant."I assure you, he was in reference to the song lyrics and their metaphorical prowess, not my philosophical grandstanding. He got it. That's really cool. But it's also kind of bittersweet, because it seems like just yesterday that I had to explain to him why we don't eat boogers.

And I know that it won't always be so easy to answer his questions or impress him with my insight. Pink Floyd = Cake Walk. God help me when he wants to discuss Nietsche or Proust.

Disclaimer: The above conversation with Randall has been abridged in order to preserve the sanity of the reader. Let's just say, the kid knows how to pummel a dead horse with remarkable efficacy.

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