This is the first song in the chronology where we really hear a pop hook. Despite all the distorted, and Dresden air raid-esque guitars wailing, there is a pop hook here. It’s the same quality that stood out about Kurt Cobain’s music of the same era. When you got past all the grunge trappings, Cobain wrote damn good pop hooks. I knew, even back in the Silver days, that JM could write them too and there would come a day when those shy pop hooks would stop hiding behind all that distortion and fuzz and come out to stand on their own.
As for the lyrical content, I think you can take it in about any direction. Today I’m going to take it in a spiritual direction, not because I think it is the only interpretation or the best one, but more because it’s the idea I feel like working with today. Let’s start with the opening lyrics:
I’d rather sleep
But you’re holding me
To it all
Let’s take this as a metaphor for being spiritually awake as we see described in 1 Samuel 3 when God keeps waking Samuel up by calling his name in the middle of the night. God apparently does not have a snooze button or a sense of when one needs their beauty sleep. If God wants you to be awake, he’s not going to stop pestering you until you wake up. It’s like a cat who realizes that he can see a portion of the bottom of the food bowl at 3 AM and will not stop swatting at your sleepy face until you get up and do something about it. And, man, does that get irritating.
I cannot recall a time when I was not spiritually awake, although there may have been a few times when I was spiritually napping. There are many days when I would prefer to be asleep and I might even choose a spiritual coma if it is on the menu.
My mentor once told me that I was born in the Spirit. I’m not sure what that means; it could just be one of those things that wise women say that aren’t meant to be understood by the intellect. As soon as I could speak, I was talking about God. As soon as I could write, I was writing notes about Jesus and drawing pictures of him. I told people about Jesus as if he was someone I knew and they should know him too because he is a great friend. I read once that children often form their concept of the heavenly father by taking their understanding of their earthly father and expanding on that concept over time. By the time I was 5, I was writing notes to my earthly father about how he needed to understand grace and be more like Jesus. There was definitely something different about my innate awareness of God.
But this is not an easy thing and, honestly, I’d rather sleep. Where I feel the most friction in my everyday life comes from moral obligations or moral duty. I find that Kant described it best as “categorical imperatives” (an unconditional moral obligation which is binding in all circumstances and is not dependent on a person’s inclination or purpose).
Kant said that these categorical imperatives are innate; we are born with this knowledge of our moral duty. Therein lies the rub. I can’t get away from it. Maybe she’s born with it; maybe it’s never ending moral duty. All the days when I would rather be spiritually asleep, when I would rather be self centered, the idea of moral duty comes back to me. God holds me to it all. And you, Kant, always get what you want and before I know it, I’m back in line, shifting my focus from my selfishness to what is outside of me and greater than me.
It is fractured sense of internal motivation that JM captures well in this lyric:
To lift you up
And I’m craving
To take the fall
On the deeper side, when I get past my spiritual temper tantrums, I see that all this frustration is just temporal. God is mine and he’s it all. That’s where I find peace.