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Top 40 Philosophy: Live, “Lightning Crashes”

Posted in Friendly Philosophy, Music, and Top 40 Philosophy

At the end of February, 1995, Live’s “Lightning Crashes” kicked Green Day’s “When I Come Around” out of the #1 spot on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart. It held that position for nine weeks, which is appropriate because it takes about nine weeks to get going.

That wasn’t an insult, btw. It’s fascinating that Live went with this arrangement when they recorded the song. Just one guitar and vocals till after the first verse and chorus have been sung, and the second verse (or third verse, if you count the first two stanzas as distinct verses) has already begun. It’s brave to keep the song that stripped-down for so long.

The song lyrically is about the connections between people, as one generation leaves the world to the next. (You can read that sentence in multiple ways, and I think Live intends them all.) Specifically, the generation passing away leaves their “confusion” to the generation being born.

Heidegger refers to the fact that we are born into the world that our forebears leave us as “thrownness” in his first book, Being and Time. We are “thrown” into a world at birth, rather than having to create a world for ourselves. We might go on later to join J.R.R. Tolkien in “sub-creating” new worlds, but we do not have to first create a world in which to live. The world is already there, waiting for us, and thus what it means for us to be “agents,” or to be “free,” is to work with what we have been given.

The world that some of us are thrown into might be smooth sailing. However, “Lightning Crashes” implies that it is also a confusing place. And the song doesn’t seem to think that is a bad thing. “The confusion that was hers / belongs now to the baby down the hall.” You can come to be attached to even the imperfections in a thing (or a person). And there is something to be said for mystery.

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