Thursday, August 09, 2007

We Hold On

Track 13: We Hold On

How many times
Do we tire of all the little battles
Threaten to call it quits
Tempted to cut and run

How many times
Do we weather out the stormy evenings
Long to slam the front door
Drive away into the setting sun

Keep going until dawn
How many times must another line be drawn
We could be down and gone
But we hold on

How many times
Do we chafe against the repetition
Straining against a fate
Measured out in coffee breaks

How many times
Do we swallow our ambition
Long to give up the same old way
Find another road to take

Keep holding on so long
There’s every chance that we might not be so wrong
We could be down and gone
But we hold on

How many times
Do we wonder if it’s really worth it
There’s got to be some other way
To get me through the night

Continuing their long tradition of finishing out their albums with really strong tracks, Rush has come up with another gem in We Hold On to close out Snakes & Arrows. This is one of the best songs on the album, in my opinion. There was some dismay early on about this song, because there is a slight production error in it. Just prior to the beginning of the second verse, there is a editing error, and it results in the verse and base drum seeming to come in a fraction of a second too early. I hadn’t noticed it on my own – it was only after hearing the discussion on Counterparts that I first noticed it. Production error or not, this is a fantastic song.

The lyrics of this song are really meaningful to me. Having been stuck in a series of desk jobs that I have hated since graduating from college ten years ago (Jaysus, has it been that long?!), I definitely identify with the image of chafing against the repetition and “straining against a fate measured out in coffee breaks.” In his essay that accompanied the release of the album, Neil says the “coffee breaks” phrase came from the works of T.S. Eliot.

More than anything, it’s that third stanza that really hits home for me as being highly relevant. “How many times do we swallow our ambition, long to give up the same old way, find another road to take.” Throughout my 20’s, as I worked a day job I didn’t like, I spent my evenings writing. I finished five novels between the ages of 22 and 28, and had two short stories published. Throughout that time, I always said that if I got to 30 and still wasn’t successful enough to write for a living, then I would go back to graduate school. I put it off until 30 because I wanted to pursue writing. I didn’t want to do anything else, I wanted to write. Well, of course, I’m now 32 and still don’t have a book published, but I still feel the same way. I still want to write. But I’ve had to swallow my ambition in order to give up the same old way of office work, and find another road to take. That’s why I’m now completing a degree in radiography. But my ambition is still there – it hasn’t gone anywhere, faded, or died. I still want to be a writer when I grow up, and I still intend to pursue writing as a full time job. With a degree in radiography, however, I will at least have something to fall back on that won’t drain me and leave me feeling like a burned out shell – which is what office and desk work makes me feel like. If I am to spend my life sitting behind a desk, I want it to be writing my own books, not doing some corporate or legal bigwig’s tedious bullshit.

In his essay, Neil says, “If many of the other lyrics illuminate the struggles we all have to face, in love and in life, this one shows how we deal with it: We hold on.” In that sense, this song makes for a perfect, neatly-tied ending to this superlative album. It binds it all together, and gives sage advice for how to deal with the snakes and arrows that we all inherit from life.

For me, it gives relevant guidance to completing my radiography degree and then continuing to pursue my dream of writing for a living: “We could be down and gone, but we hold on.”

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