The world is filled with walls. Walls that divide different social classes, walls that keep humans and nature separate, walls that keep different nations, races, religions, alliances, and opinions apart. We build the walls to boost our self esteems, because somehow exclusivity equals superiority. We hurt each other because of the walls. We wage war and kill to prove that it is our side of the wall that is right. It is the walls that encourage prejudice, hatred, and contempt for our fellow man. If it is the walls that cause so much pain, so much anguish, and so much suffering, then why are they even there? Through the timeless “Wish You Were Here”, it is arguable that the walls are not there at all, not in reality anyways. The walls exist only in our minds.
“So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell, blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?”
The first verse discusses how human perception is imperfect. Our judgments are not always right. In fact, they are all too often devastatingly wrong. There is rarely an obvious black and white but usually a myriad of shades of grey. Sometimes, even something as seemingly simple as determining the difference between “Heaven and Hell” may prove more complex. To illustrate, a junkie may think he/ she is in heaven when indulging in the sensations of drugs, but are they really? Even something universally recognized as good, such as a smile, may not be real. If this is the case, how can we truly judge anything?
“Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
Did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?”
When our perception fails us, we tend to make poor decisions and face disappointment. Sometimes the people we look up to, depend, trust, and even idolize fail us. People are not always who we think they are because even if someone is perceived as perfect, there is no way that anyone can meet such a standard. Because of our misjudgments, something that may seem beneficial may end up being catastrophic. Around the world, deforestation is occurring at an incredibly rapid pace due to the demand for lumber. Rather than taking the time to compose a more sustainable solution, we continue to cut down trees at the cost of our world’s ecosystems. Because right now, in the present, there is an immediate need for wood, we take it without thinking of the devastating outcome.
The phrase, “did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage” has always resonated with me the most. When we are confused, we may take sides with something that doesn’t make sense. Rather than playing a small part in a meaningful cause, we may be lured into taking a role in a superficial scheme that may seem important and gain a person recognition, even if there is really no purpose or benefit. Once you are entangled in the world of pettiness and greed, it is difficult to bring yourself back to a cause that will allow you to contribute to good of something other than yours or someone else’s greed.
“How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.”
We are often disconnected from reality. We see things that aren’t really there and create limitations for ourselves for no apparent reason. When this is so, we repeat our mistakes and can never learn what it is that is missing from our lives, like “lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year”. Until a person opens their eyes they are “running over the same old ground” to no avail, because they do not overcome their fears or gain anything. The “you” in “wish you were here” refers to former Pink Floyd member, Syd Barrett, whose instabilities were well known. However, it definitely doesn’t take an actual mental issue for a person to join the ranks of the “lost souls”. We all wander into the lost territory of confusion because no one will be able to see the world clearly all the time. One truly becomes lost, however, when you lose the will to find your way back to reality.
I just have to add this video in here. It’s an absolutely gorgeous rendition of the song with Roger Waters and one of my all-time favorite guitar players: Eric Clapton. Not only that but its a charity concert for the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake:
It seems that someone will always build invisible walls to divide us socially. Whether its the cliques at school, racial prejudices, religious intolerance, political parties, or simply opposing viewpoints, someone will always come up with something to categorize people into certain groups. But what’s important to remember is that these walls can easily be torn down because they never existed in the first place. We are all human. We all live. We will all die. We all have the same basic needs and desires: to be loved, to be accepted, and to be happy, no matter what is different. Just because we are different does not mean we need to stand divided. We can learn from each other’s differences. And just maybe even love each other for our differences.