A wise man once said, “These laces are untied, but my feet are still walking away.”

It’s poetic.  It could mean a number of things, but technically it’s a breakup song. It sounds so much nicer than actually saying, “I’m not guiltless; I don’t have my life together, but I know enough to know that we can never be together again.”

Well it wasn’t actually a wise man that said that, it was a band: Emery. The reason I love listening to Emery is because of the heavy use of metaphor in their lyrics. They also have some of the best harmonies I’ve ever heard from a rock band, with a twist, where two people are singing completely different things at the exact same time. It’s called “counterpoint”, and John Rahn, an American composer, describes it like this:

It is hard to write a beautiful song. It is harder to write several individually beautiful songs that, when sung simultaneously, sound as a more beautiful polyphonic whole. The internal structures that create each of the voices separately must contribute to the emergent structure of the polyphony, which in turn must reinforce and comment on the structures of the individual voices. The way that is accomplished in detail is…’counterpoint’.

Counterpoint in Film

I love the art that surrounds film, probably more than any form. Pictures have no sound, and music has no pictures. Film combines the two, and when done right can make something beautiful.

Before today, the best example of counterpoint in film that I could think of was in the movie Gladiator. Maximus (Russell Crowe) has deepening visions of a field of wheat as he nears death, because of his desire to be with his family in the after-life. It’s not exactly a metaphor for specific actions, but a metaphor for his overall motivation.

There’s also Constantine with Keanu Reeves, but that’s more of a movie interpretation of religious and superstitious beliefs. There’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but that’s a comedy about a guy that zones out into a fantasy world. Close, but no cigar.

Then today, it happened. I was trying to watch a news show on Youtube when I was interrupted by a commercial. I’m usually quick to press the “Skip Ad” button, but I was hooked in about a second. I watched the whole thing, then clicked on the link so I could re-watch the video. I forgot all about the news bit I was trying to watch. It looks like I have a new favorite commercial.

I originally watched the 30 second version of the commercial. It’s what I saw, and it’s, what hooked me. There’s a full 59 second version as well, and you can find it on Youtube or Google by searching for “Lacoste The Big Leap”. I was surprised for a few reasons.

Since when do I not press the “Skip Ad” button?

Since when does Lacoste do commercials?

How did they get it so right?

I think this commercial is the perfect metaphor for a bold first kiss. She didn’t even meet him halfway. He had to bridge that chasm…hard. And in the end, it looked like he made the right choice. You’ve got to take risks to get what you want. Also it doesn’t hurt to smell good and be dressed well while taking that plunge, wink wink.

I wasn’t surprised when I read the comments section of the video only to find it affected so many other people, the way it affected me. The consensus is that whoever made this commercial needs more money thrown at them! Way to go Lacoste!

Counterpoint in Music

My favorite expression of counterpoint in music is the song Ponytail Parades, by Emery. Specifically at this point in the song:

How can you take all these days (What is inside of me what have I done?)
and throw them away  (Is this the only way that you’ll notice me?)
as I sit here waiting (for you) (Dead words for closed ears all this is sung for you, for you)

I stay up nights  (If you are still pretending this is what’s right)
until stars leave the sky  (Why can’t you look at me can you only see?)
knowing what my dreams can take away (One side, your side, can take away)
Walk away from me.
This night is done.

My second favorite expression of counterpoint is also held by Emery, this time from their song Playing with Fire. This one is a little emo-screamo, but it’s still beautiful.

Why should I take all the blame for my mistakes? (One without regret)
You were there with every promise made to break (I will not forget)
When did you become the one without regret? (One without regret)
Kill me, burn me down, I swear I won’t forget (I will not forget)
When did you become the one without regret? (Kill me, kill me, kill me)
Kill me, burn me down, I swear I won’t forget (Kill me, kill me)

This probably shows that I need to be exposed to more examples of counterpoint in music.  My first exposure to this type of music was actually from Sesame Street at about the age of 5. I kid you not, sometimes this song still gets stuck in my head in the shower. But it’s not really counterpoint, it’s called a “round”.

I also vaguely remember Carol of the Bells, but that seems more like a round as well.

Counterpoint in Life

I always think of things we do in real life as having a spiritual or mental equivalency. Jesus said it best:

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. – Luke 15:4-7

Jesus was the king of metaphor! Always speaking in parables. That’s one story that really sticks with me in the bible.

I’m an analytical person and I don’t like to over-spiritualize things. If you lost your keys and arrive late to work, it’s not an attack from Satan. Satan probably doesn’t even know your name, it’s not like you’re a world leader or anything. Seriously, he’s not omnipotent.

Nevertheless, I like to step back and see what my actions are doing in a spiritual light. Do behaviors we engage in have spiritual consequences? If you had glasses that allowed you to peer into the spiritual world and look past the veneer of civilization, what would we see?

What are you addicted to? Is it coffee, cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, or porn? I tend to visualize all forms of addiction as a ball and chain, or someone with chained hands and feet being led around by a chain around their neck.

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. – 1 Corinthians 6:12

How many of our idols are really just enslaved? How many serial achievers are really just insecure? How many of the people we deem as beautiful, are really ugly on the inside? Would we be surprised by the places and the people in whom we found beauty and strength?

Overcoming Fears

Sometimes I like to exercise my mind as well as my body. I take cold showers on days that I go to the gym, as part of my mental toughness regime. It doesn’t matter the time of the year, or how cold the water, It’s become my policy.

I first got the idea when I read a fictional book about Alexander the Great. Apparently his dad made him jump into a cold lake every morning as part of building physical and mental toughness in his son. The book was called “Virtues of War” by Steven Pressfield. I was 19 when I read it, and the next morning at 5am, I jumped in our freezing cold pool to see what it was like. It was very unpleasant.

Then I ignored it for a while, until I watched a documentary on US Navy SEALS, and they did the same thing for their training in the ocean, for hours on end. The rational was that the greatest hardship besides torture that a human can have is the cold, and fighting the cold prepares SEALS for the rigors and stresses of war. Finally I googled “cold showers” and found that it’s actually a very healthy thing to do, so long as you don’t have any preventive medical conditions. The way I see it, we evolved to take cold showers, and hot showers are just a pleasant side effect of human tool-making, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t be healthy. So the scales tipped, and I started taking cold showers.

So when I’m in my cold showers, and occasionally jumping into a pool in winter, I imagine myself in the scariest place possible. In the middle of the ocean, at night, and it’s freezing.

Over time, I’ve come to see anything that has to do with overcoming fears, as involving the ocean. Before that, it had to do with jumping out of an airplane into a battlefield (think Band of Brothers). Then I went skydiving, and crossed that off the fears list.

Which brings me to why I like the following video so much. It exemplifies a combination of everything I’m afraid of, and that’s why I love it. It shows someone completely overcoming the natural human tendency to avoid that type of situation, and the music doesn’t hurt at all.

This film is its own counterpoint.