Cough Syrup and Jesus

Another off-beat, idiosyncratic Neal creation. First, have you ever read this St. Paul “what if” musing? It’s just remarkable!

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead! — 1 Cor. 15:13-20

A dark world aches for a splash of the sun. — Young the Giant

Today I would like to share a brief reflection on a song called Cough Syrup by the group, Young the Giant. For whatever reason, ever since Maria and Ashley introduced me to that song last year (their cover), I have never tired of listening to it, finding again and again new inspirations in its tune, lyrics and music video. Why? In part, I think this is because when Patti and I got away to Biloxi for our 21st wedding anniversary last October, this song was playing on my Playlist as we sat out on the balcony of our condo watching the sunrise dapple the Gulf waters. At that moment it was like time collapsed, all my cares fled and I was surrounded by things that bring me intense joy: my wife, nature and music. Whenever I hear it play, without exception, I am thrust back to the transcendent power of that moment.

An aside: A priest I know emailed me the other day and said he so often finds in “non-religious” music a much more profound and honest exploration of the great existential questions of humanity than what he finds in most pop Christian music. I would concur entirely, and could list 100 examples. Christian faith is incarnate and paschal, taking its point of departure in divine revelation’s full immersion in the human condition.

Cough Syrup is a symbolic fest, though I would not say I believe Young the Giant intends “faith” explicitly. But I am Catholic, so any human search for meaning is already friendly to the light of faith. I won’t attempt a serious commentary on Cough Syrup, nor claim I really understand what the composers intended. I’ll just toss out a few comments and then share the music video/lyrics for you to reflect on. If you feel so moved!

During this Easter season, I am seeing so many resonances of death and resurrection all around me.

Cough Syrup seems to be about the quest for meaning and happiness in life. Universal. It speaks to struggles with depression, despair and a sense of purposelessness. The “fishes” and “zombies,” having lost all meaning and purpose, tempt the singer to return to their shadow-lands. The song and music video are chock full of rich symbols. “Cough syrup,” I think, symbolizes temporary fixes, like psychotropic medications (Xanax, Zoloft) that dull the inner pain. Though these medications serve a great purpose and can allow you to catch your breath, if your crisis is rooted in the collapse of a sense of substantive meaning in life meds will never be able to free you. Those drowning in the gray hues of depression long to spring out into the colorful, hopeful, playful and restorative light of the sun, that most ancient symbol of the rising Christ.

In both song and music video, I see with the eyes of faith a baptismal font in which we both die and rise; a dark tomb holding the dead Christ; a Paschal candle; the rising sun, disciples running to the empty tomb; the immobilizing chains of sin; mind-bending metanoia; a buried treasure in a field; the surrender of faith; redemption as restoration; a foray into God’s prism beauty that inspires Christian liturgical play and sung celebration (Rev. 4:3); knowing the shortness of life (Psalm 39:4).

Oh! The power of art to bring hope, meaning and beauty to a hopeless, meaningless and ugly life.

Enjoy, if you wish:

Life’s too short to even care at all oh
I’m losing my mind losing my mind losing control
These fishes in the sea they’re staring at me oh oh oh oh oh oh
A wet world aches for a beat of a drum, oh

If I could find a way to see this straight, I’d run away
To some fortune that I, I should have found by now
I’m waiting for this cough syrup to come down, come down

Life’s too short to even care at all oh
I’m coming up now coming up now out of the blue oh
These zombies in the park they’re looking for my heart oh oh oh oh
A dark world aches for a splash of the sun oh oh

If I could find a way to see this straight, I’d run away
To some fortune that I, I should have found by now

And so I run to the things they said could restore me
Restore life the way it should be
I’m waiting for this cough syrup to come down

Life’s too short to even care at all oh
I’m losing my mind losing my mind losing control

If I could find a way to see this straight, I’d run away
To some fortune that I, I should have found by now

And so I run back to the things they said could restore me
Restore life the way it should be
I’m waiting for this cough syrup to come down

One more spoon of cough syrup now whoa
One more spoon of cough syrup now whoa

2 comments on “Cough Syrup and Jesus

  1. Tara Rodden Robinson says:

    “But I am Catholic, so any human search for meaning is already friendly to the light of faith.” Me, too! 🙌

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