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Soap Bubble Dream
© 1999, Roy Stucky

Last night I saw the tally of another man's poll
And most everyone agreed we're in control.
The speaker who told me was not really near
But said it in a voice polished slick and sincere.

It must be someone else that they came up to ask,
'Cause I've been far too busy fixing last year's mask.
If everyone's ok then I'm truly alone
With debts and my broken down cordless phone.

I saw it on the curve of a soap bubble dream,
It played out really big like on a drive-in screen.
A middle class house down a dust settled lane
Was turned into the palace of a phantom fame.

Each night when the light of that tube goes away,
My sleep mumbles out what I'm afraid that I'll say.
I want to tell someone all the things my eyes see
But no one seems to ever really listen to me.

I saw it on the curve of a soap bubble dream,
It played out really big like on a drive-in screen.
A middle class house down a dust settled lane
Was turned into the palace of a phantom fame.

How can it be that we call this a life,
Run 'round on fire with our hearts made of ice?
When did my friends all buy in to this lie,
Told we would win if we'd just really try?

Don't even think that it's drive that I lack,
Totin' for the man's put a curve in my back.
Problem is sleep baits a trap for my mind -
Holes in the cheese of a double blind.

I saw it on the curve of a soap bubble dream,
It played out really big like on a drive-in screen.
A middle class house down a dust settled lane
Was turned into the palace of a phantom fame.

 


On it's own, the song is about human arrogance. I am the boy in the bubble; survival through isolation. But the walls of my protection are exquisitely frail. Behind the mask of our pride, our frailties come to haunt our dreams. A being spending a quarter or more of it's existence unconcious yet thinking it is the creator of God is clearly mad. Our mighty systems and machines are mocked by our dreams. We meddle with our very genetic structure, we think to control nature, but we cannot even control the terrain in our own minds.

There are several "detachment" references in just the first two stanzas, such as "another man's", "not really near", "someone else", "mask", "alone", and "cordless".

"Another man's poll" is watching the latest opinion poll on tv, run by someone I don't know and asking no one I've met, in which the majority said their lives were in good shape. The allusion here is of isolation and of people massed into percentiles. Against the weight of that nebulous thing called ' the public', individuals find it hard to hold their own opinions.

"In control" is the fiction of the modern technological man. The reality is that we are in very little control of anything. All our efforts to 'fix' things lead to new and generally more complex issues. Unintended consequences rule the landscape. And now through the uncertainty principle we understand that the act of observation changes the observed, so things are not only not what they seem, but not even what was just seen.

"The speaker" plays on the practised announcer in a distant studio and the mechanical voice inside my set.  One is far from me in distance, the other in essance.

"Polished slick" is that the humanity has been removed by professional training and replaced by artificial sincerity. It is also a play on the smooth TV screen carrying the image and the mechanical loudspeaker. Slick as in used car salesman.

"Too busy" - Especially in the USA, we spend the lion's share of our days working. The pace is such that many things, even fundamental things, are neglected.

"Fixing last year's mask" is that I have been polishing my own humanity down, but into a poorly constructed and out of fashion image. Much of our culture is high maintenance. Disposable are the highest of all. We spend time to evaluate, select, purchase, and transport the object, only to see it quickly become unsuited for its purpose. Then we must go through the disosal cycle and begin the acquisition cycle over again. So why are flimsy, often irreparable goods popular? Cheap. In any long run such items are grossly overpriced. But we are pressed for time.

"If everyone's ok then I'm truly alone" because I am not ok. Rationalism's promises have proven frail dreams.

"Debts" is that following the ways of this culture has given it a hold on me.

The "Broken down cordless phone" for which I went into debt represents my having bought into the ideal of living at a distance rather than face to face. But I have found that now no one regards me enough to even make impersonal contact. This is why the phone is cordless, because now I am not even wired into the system that took the place of human contact. I am twice isolated. The idea is that the existential isolation, a given of human existence, has been exacerbated by social isolation. Cordless represents disenfranchised, and so ties to Orwell's Keep the Aspidaspera Flying, with the worst thing being to seek money, yet fail to attain it. The disconnected symbol is broken down because it failed to deliver on its promises and because modernity. has broken down the lines of communication between us.

"Curve of a soap bubble dream" is that our aspirations are fragile, easily blown about, hollow, appear in a rainbow of superficial colors, are the playthings of children, doomed. to a brief existence, and reflect a distorted image. All I need to do is wake up to pop that bubble, to realize my grand dreams have no substance. "Curve" plays on the TV screen, soap bubble, and human back. When I try to take hold of the pretty image coming toward me from the tv, it bursts in my hands.

On another level it is a metaphor on the span of our lives here on Earth. Our existence is fragile, and destined to be brief. In other words, our life here describes an arch up from and back down into the dust, which plays on the "settled lane".

"Played out really big" is that this image held out to me makes my life appear significant, the stuff of legend.

"Dust settled" is that I live where the controversy of how one should live has been decided, and that there is no traffic around me. I am a backwater outside the great stream of events. In my house the dust of grand accomplishments has settled into an average covering.

"Phantom fame" is that the image of significance, of my life being the center of attention, is without substance.

"Light of that tube" is when the fantasy machine stops, when I no longer see myself by it's light, far more somber images come toward me out of the darkness.

"My sleep mumbles out what I'm afraid that I'll say" is that my own dreams do not care what the opinion polls and ratings say. My dreams are not sanitized by the happiness machine into safe repeat-on-demand delights. My personal dreams of glory slip through my fingers like sand when I awake, laughing at my desire to hold them. And often my dreams mock me, make me talk in my sleep and admit how small and frightened I am.

"Tell someone" is the longing for personal contact, and for someone who will understand why I am afraid of my dream. But I am ignored.

"Call this a life" is that our cultural dreams of the good life are pathetic, in the full sense of that word.

"Run 'round on fire" is that we are inflammed with passions.

Yet our " hearts made of ice " do not feel the delight. Where is something that truly satisfies this hunger?

"Win if we'd just really try" begs the question of what we are to win.

"Drive" to get ahead.

"Sleep baits a trap" of building up images of my great success.

"Holes in the cheese" represents that what I sought proved what is missing when I reach my goal. It also and plays on a mouse trap image, where the pop of the bubble is the snap of a trap.

"Double blind" is a play on the oh so objective test maze in Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes. Of course there were a few promises made that in the end could not be delivered.

 


"Our revels are ended: these our actors, as I foretold you, were all spirits, and are melted into air, into thin air: and, like the baseless fabric of this vision the cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself, yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, and like this insubstantial pageant faded, leave not a rack behind: we are such stuff as dreams are made of, and our little life is rounded with a sleep..."
William Shakespeare

 


"Feeling what a strange species he belonged to, which had organized its planet to such an extent. Of this mass of ingenious creatures, about half had gone into the state of sleep, in pillows, sheeted, wrapped, quilted, muffled. The waking, like a crew, worked the world's machines. and all went up and down and round about with calculations accurate to the billionth of a degree, the skins of engines removed, replaced, million-mile trajectories laid out. By these geniuses, the waking. The sleeping brutes, fantasists, dreaming. Then they woke, and the other half went to bed. And that is how this brilliant human race runs this wheeling globe."
Saul Bellow

 


“All round and round does the world lie as in a sharp-shooter’s ambush, to pick off the beautiful illusions of youth, by the pitiless cracking rifles of the realities of the age.”
Herman Melville

 


"They fill the air of the room with their bubbles, their air balloons, which roll and shine reflecting the light of the fire and candles, and are very beautiful. There can be no more perfect emblem of the physical and political and theological scenes of human life. Morality only is eternal. All the rest is balloon and bubble from the cradle to the grave."
John Adams

 


"Gordon thought it all out, in the naive selfish manner of a boy. There are two ways to live, he decided. You can be rich, or you can deliberately refuse to be rich. You can possess money, or you can despise money; the one fatal thing is to worship money and fail to get it. He took it for granted that he himself would never be able to make money. It hardly ever occurred to him that he might have talents which could be turned to account.... He had declared war on money; but secretly, of course."
George Orwell

 


BIBLIOGRAPHY

The Holy Bible

John Adams
letter to John Quincy Adams, 1813

Saul Bellow
Mr. Sammler's Planet

Daniel Keyes (1927-living)
Flowers For Algernon (1966)

Herman Melville
Pierre

George Orwell (1903-1950)
Keep The Aspidistra Flying (1936)
1984 (1949)
Animal Farm (1945)

William Shakespeare
The Tempest

 


This lyric was written in March of 1999.

This came out of viewing the results of yet another public opinion poll when my own situation was not as prosperous as the pundits were saying everyone else seemed to be.

 


When it was in the allegory, this song was the young builder beginning to have his own doubts about the Tower; doubts that creep into his dreams.

On the epiphany level this is the young builder's first ‘visitation', this time by dreams.

On the series level, this song is that our own dreams tell us what little vainglorious creatures we are, tell us how far we are from making ourselves whole.

"Broken down cordless phone", in the context of the Tower of Babel image, is that what held them together was just talk. When that was cut off they drifted apart.