88.9 Hey Radio, Cloudland, and Me

I love the name Cloudland. Let me paint you a quick picture about a time I went mountain climbing.


I was 19 and I was halfway through a crazy adventure. I had ridden a bus from Michigan to Washington State for four days. I rode my mountain bike across the desert and over the Cascade Mountains, from Yakima to Mount Rainier, in three days. Now, I was on the second day of my two-day climb of Mt. Rainier. It's a fast climb, and today we are supposed to reach the summit.

There's a glacier that we need to get up before the sun gets too high. Apparently, the idea is that we are going to climb through this section while it's still really cold in the morning. Then, as the sun rises the ice and snow is going to heat up and there will probably be a small avalanche. Then, we're going to come back down this section again later. For the plan to work, you need to not be there when the avalanche happens.

But, one of the guys that I'm roped to is having problems, major problems. He has mountain sickness, he's walking and talking like he's drunk, really drunk, and he keeps falling off of the cliff. This thing is an almost vertical 2,000 foot drop down a glacier. We are weaving our way up it. But he keeps falling off the edge, and we keep catching him with the rope and pulling him back up. It's exhausting. Eventually, our guide tells us that we aren't going to make it in time, we're just moving too slow like this. He's going to radio for help.

The radio doesn't work. We still need help though. My guide anchors us into the ice face and leaves to find help from one of the other teams. Now, it's just me and Jeremiah standing on this little ice ledge looking out from this mountain. The other guy was there, but we couldn't understand the nonsense mixture of sounds he was making, so he doesn't count. Jeremiah and I had a unique experience, to say the least.

As we stood there talking about how stupid it is to die by waiting in an avalanche zone until said avalanche arrives, we watched the marine layer of clouds rise in unison with the sun. Of course, this beautiful sunrise was also the thing that was going to kill us, but... it was amazing. The clouds slowly climbed their way up the mountain. You couldn't tell they were moving, they just kept getting closer and closer, until they were right at our feet. The 2,000 foot cliff no longer existed. It looked, it seemed, it appeared, as if you could just step out onto that cloud. Like Heaven or Olympus had invited us. It seemed like the cloud would just catch you in its soft embrace.

None of us stepped onto the cloud, not even the guy that had tried to step into pure air a few times before. The guide came back with two other guides and a couple more people. My guide took some people back down the path, and I continued on with a new guide. Later that day I summitted Mt. Rainier, and I have a picture at the top where I look a bit dazed. By the time I got to the bottom again my boots were full of blood, and I still have spots where hair doesn't grow on my shins. I've had some brain damage since then from complications after an adventure in Africa, but I still vividly remember that scene of me and Jeremiah standing on that cliff, watching the sun and the clouds rise, and talking of death.

The band Cloudland probably has a different story behind their name choice. Here is their own introduction from their website: https://www.cloudlandband.com

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We’re a four piece alternative rock outfit based out of Athens, Georgia.  Hope and honesty drive our songs, walking the line between what is sacred and what is secular in an attempt to bring you something you might not find anywhere else. We thrive off of fast-paced, energy-filled shows and an honest, homegrown fanbase. We want to love what we do just as much as the people listening. Connect with us on all social media platforms and email, and let’s get a show together.

With love,

Karmen Smith, Hogan Heim, Zach King, & Aidan Hill
@cloudlandband

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The song we are looking at today is "Over Again". You can listen to it on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/album/3BXgF5hBn7QzGbaKDwC0Uk

Let's do the lyrics stanza by stanza and see if anything interesting emerges, or leaps out at us.

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I’d been thinkin’ this was it
It would all just settle in place
If this is patience I feel spent
I guess I didn’t think it’d be this way
Then I think back to the start
Oh it all just seemed so far
Then I focus back to now
You’ve had a plan for every part

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This first part seems simple, but it's really rather complex. It's very contemplative, and centers around this idea of thinking back over your life in a nostalgic way, almost from an existential perspective. Whoever wrote this seems to be quite the poet, and poets often create sentences that mean multiple things. I think that's the case here.

I'm not going to be able to unpack everything. But, the first four lines are a little morose, they have a feeling like the acceptance of dissatisfaction. Then, the fifth line is a turning point. We move back in time, "to the start", where the future seemed so incredibly distant. In the seventh line we come back to the present with a new perspective on life that is revealed in line eight. Life seems to have some cohesiveness, it seemed chaotic going through it, but now looking back on it there appears to be order.

This idea of meaning-making is a powerful concept. The great psychologist Viktor Frankl will provide us with a little insight about how meaning-making works when the incidences of life seem chaotic, but maybe the whole makes sense.

"Now let us turn to the question of meaning itself. To invoke an analogy, consider a movie: it consists of thousands upon thousands of individual pictures, and each of them makes sense and carries a meaning, yet the meaning of the whole film cannot be seen before its last sequence is shown. However, we cannot understand the whole film without having first understood each of its components, each of the individual pictures. Isn’t it the same with life? Doesn’t the final meaning of life, too, reveal itself, if at all, only at its end, on the verge of death? And doesn’t this final meaning, too, depend on whether or not the potential meaning of each single situation has been actualized to the best of the respective individual’s knowledge and belief?"

Also in that last line our singer is addressing a personified and personal greater power. That's no small thing. My views on it are unusual, to say the least. But it's a little too much for me to address here. I have an article with an obscenely long title that does address it simply and quickly though - "God, the Other, and the Self; Or, The Emergent Concept of God; Or, The Re-Creation of the Self Through the Discovery and Conceptualization of God; Or, The God Without and the God Within": http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/2019/04/god-other-and-self-or-emergent-concept.html

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So I will do this over again and over again and we’ll be fine
Oh I can see you all over this all over this so take your time
And I’ll have my eyes set on the lights you keep leaving on

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I'm not sure which way to go with this repetition. Repetition is important for learning, it's how we develop the myelin sheath that wraps around our neurons, which is largely responsible for all of our developed skills and acquired knowledge. Maybe meaning-making is a skill that is developed over time, and needs repetitions. That actually makes a lot of sense.

That last line about leaving the lights on is interesting. The lights are guideposts, I assume. They are signs of opportunity, right decision, and right action. They are trying to lead you in the right direction.

Here's the thing, we don't perceive everything in our environment. It's just not physically possible to process that much information. We are aware of a tiny fraction of the available data in our environment. It's important that our brains and minds become aware of the right data. To do that you need a framework that you're operating in. This is actually called the frame problem.

The psychologist James Gibson created the theory of affordances, the idea that things offer an ability to interact with them, and that's how we first perceive them. We see things as either tools in getting what we want, or obstacles in the way of getting what we want. If something isn't a tool or an obstacle, then we never even become aware that it exists. We truly don't process the data.

So these lights, that are guiding beacons, that the singer speaks about here are tools that have been set in his path to help him on his journey. The journey that doesn't seem to make sense while he's going through it, but makes perfect sense when he's looking back on it.

After repeating this process of looking back over his life to see how it is orderly, he seems to be developing some trust in the process and the guide, so he has faith in these guiding lights, you could even say confidence. Confidence comes from the Latin con fidere, meaning "with faith."

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Something’s telling me to quit
But then I think to if I did
I’d have the rest of my life
Spend sitting with the could of beens

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The singer's doubt here is general, it covers everything, doubt and thinking about quitting for any reason. No matter the reason, he navigates through this problem by thinking about what he would regret, the missed opportunities. This is a common strategy for approaching life. The billionaires Mark Cuban, Jeff Bezos, and Ross Perot all cite this as an idea that they use when making big life decisions.

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So I will do this over again and over again and we’ll be fine
Oh I can see you all over this all over this so take your time
And I’ll have my eyes set on the lights you keep leaving on

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I'm sure I could go over this one again, but I'll let you think of some instead.

- - - - - - -

Oh take your time
Oh won’t you take my time
Oh won’t you take your time
Oh won’t you take my time

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Alternating between "your time" and "my time" is intriguing. Is there a difference? Is it my time? Or God's time? Or our time? Powerful questions indeed.

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So I will do this over again and over again and we’ll be fine
Oh I can see you all over this all over this so take your time
So I will do this over again and over again and we’ll be fine

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And that's it folks. That part where he says "we'll be fine", the "we" interests me. Is it the singer and God? Is it the singer referring to himself as a plural? (Which is a major psychological concept.) Is it humanity? Is it a specific set of people? I'm not sure, you'll have to make your own guesses about that one, and see how the song speaks to you.

That went quite a bit differently than I expected it to. Here are the original notes that I wrote down.

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meaning making
self and other
past present and future
regret
guilt
confidence, with faith
split between self and other
basic trust
rise and fall of israel narrative
eliade, the sacred
otto, the holy

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I included some of that, but other things were left out entirely. The idea of walking the sacred/secular line from Cloudland's description of themselves intrigues me, but that subject will be left for another day.

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Read more of what Jeff deems worthy of attention at: http://www.JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com

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