The latest installment of my manifesto comes from the amazing Paul Simon. And unlike my last selection, MMMBop, I can totally understand the words to this song. But much like MMMBop I’m not completely sure what Paul is talking about. This song is sort of like a Rorshach test. I think we might all see or in this case hear a little something different.
As I thought about it, I actually had two different ideas for the deep meaning this song holds for me. First, there’s the part where he sings about being soft in the middle when the rest of my life is so hard. Well, that probably resonates with everyone over a certain age. There comes a point in most of our lives when we look around and take stock. When our bodies may be soft in the middle and we start worrying about what we’ve accomplished and what we hope to accomplish before our time is up. We all want a shot at redemption. We realize we don’t want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard.
But the other meaning comes from the famous refrain: “If you’ll be my bodyguard, I could be your long last pal. I can call you Betty. And Betty when you call me, you can call me Al.” What speaks to me in those words is the need for connection. We all want a long lost pal, don’t we? And probably a body guard from time to time. When I think of a body guard, I think of a silent someone, watching and listening. And watching and listening are some of the most powerful things in the world.
I didn’t know that for the longest time. Just watching and listening were counter to everything I had been taught to value. Doing. Doing. Doing. That’s what’s important. That’s what makes things happen. If you aren’t doing that you darn well better be planning what you’re about to be doing. If someone comes to me with a problem? Yo, I’ll solve it. Check out the hook while…. Ooops, wrong song but you get the meaning. Problems are for solving. What good ever came from just watching and listening???
Well, when you are talking about deep watching and listening, a whole lot of good. That’s what Al is looking for here when he asks Betty to be his bodyguard. He is willing to be her long lost pal –which won’t be easy- in exchange. All because watching and listening is big important stuff. It’s not doing nothing. In fact, if you do it right, you will actually be really tired afterwards. Your brain and your soul work really hard to just watch and listen. It is MUCH easier to spout off a suggestion and maybe give a pat on the head and move on.
Let that sit with you as you listen to Paul (and watch Chevy. I mean this is supposed to be fun, after all.) We all crave that bodyguard who will watch and listen. We don’t really need much else. Can you be someone’s bodyguard? What would happen to the world if we all were long lost pals?
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