Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why You Must Listen to Mumford & Sons #2

Reason 2: The Cave

This is going to be even more evident in my discussion of this song, so I want to address it head on.

I'm not trying to peg Mumford and Sons as being "Christians in disguise". Much to the contrary! They might be Christians, they might be generally theistic, or even none of the above. No matter, I find it extremely refreshing that they are authentically exploring faith issues within the public sphere of music. It creates space for thoughtful reflection and conversation.

Before reading on, I recommend you begin with my introduction to the title track of the album. Otherwise, remember the title track seems to frame the entire album in a message of redemption - confronting the pain and brokenness while pointing to a hope for restoration towards wholeness in life.

The Cave is rich in symbolism and literary allusions, opening with a vivid picture of the desolation left in the wake of ones broken life. Or the "sighs of life", as we previously discussed.

It's empty in the valley of your heart
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you've left behind

The harvest left no food for you to eat
You cannibal, you meat-eater, you see
But I have seen the same
I know the shame in your defeat
The refrain is reminiscent of the hopeful rally call introduced in the title track, but now the narrator is aware he is not alone in this journey. He vividly sees the gruelling bondage of those near him, desperate to help in their liberation. This liberation is now understood to be a process, and that pain is not something to avoid but embrace as a means to growth. It closes with a reminder that the liberation necessitates an ongoing response to the call towards aligning oneself to the design of life.
But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again
The key operator in the title track was "love", now we see it has been interchanged with "truth". The love compels us, but the truth is necessary for the transforming alignment. The "widows and orphans" is a clear representation of the pain that surrounds us resulting from the brokenness of humanity - the fruit of the evil that grips each individual. Finally, ones transformation is not for ones own end, rather, also includes a calling to reach out to others who have been hurt or are in bondage.
Cause I have other things to fill my time
You take what is yours and I'll take mine
Now let me at the truth
Which will refresh my broken mind

So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears

But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again
In the third verse we see a penchant for classical Greek allusions. First, Plato's excellent allegory of the cave, a fascinating story about perception and the revelation of reality. A bold claim is made that this revelation of reality, which seems upside down, gives a new understanding of dependence. Dependence on what? Well, we are gathering quite a collection of nouns used to describe the source of redemption; first "love", then "truth", and now "maker". But it's not just knowing the maker, it's to know his land. To know the land of a ruler means to know his heart, his values, his ways, his laws. This is followed by a likely reference to the Sirens in The Odyssey; a sense that there is a tempting alternate path - countering Love, Truth, and the ways of the Makers land.
So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker's land*
So make your siren's call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say
The bridge to the final refrain encapsulates the whole message of the song. Liberation through Truth, which refreshes us to wholeness in right living.
Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it's meant to be

And I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again
The message of redemption is further developed in The Cave. We are shamed, broken, faulty, and tempted. But there is hope as we are strengthened, refreshed by a Truth which reveals a seemingly upside down reality and called by name for a purpose as we learn the ways of the Makers land. But we aren't alone in this redemption story, and we aren't satisfied with it being for our own end. We are compelled to be a part of this movement for the liberation of humanity.

Reason #1: Sigh No More
Reason #2: The Cave
Reason #3: Winter Winds
Reason #4: Roll Away Your Stone
Reason #5: White Blank Page
Reason #6: I Gave You All
Reason #7: Little Lion Man
Reason #8: Timshel

*While the recorded version is clearly "land", they are known in live performances to interchange it with "hand". On my initial take, I found "hand" to be more satisfying. Especially in light of the previous line about dependence, as if the makers hand is the sustainer. However, as I developed my interpretation of the song I came to appreciate the much fuller meaning of land. I think the fact that they clearly interchange these two words helps to zero in on a definition.


Devin said...

This is such a solid interpretation! Extraordinarily thorough and well thought out!

I applaud your analysis! ^_^

DK said...

A appreciate your affirmation! This might have provided the motivation that I needed to finish off my analysis of the last few tracks of the album.

I can't believe I stopped, because there are a couple I haven't done which I think have some of the richest content. :)

Edward S. said...

You should give GK Chesterton's biography on St. Fancis of Assisi a read. The line "come out of your cave walking on your hands" is a line straight out of that book.

DK said...

Makes sense! I know Marcus has read GK Chesterton. I'll add that to my reading list, thanks friend!