88.9 Hey Radio, Amongst the Giants, and Me

This will probably be an intellectually intense article. The exploration of depth in lyrics.

Before we dive into the actual article I'm writing, check this out. I went through the lyrics of the song I'm going to explore and these are the notes I wrote to myself on the first time through (I left in initial spelling errors and everything).

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con fidere, cognitive dissonance, semantic triangle square, squaring the triangle
individualized groups and anonymous communities, true dialogue and discussion, intention and consquentialism
weight as both truth and importance, experience as singular, autonomy and locus of control
the dispossessed, self censoring, procrastination of challenge, platos cave seeing the light, truth as not always comfortable, free speech necessary for free thought
explicit and implicit communication transactional analysis eric berne, diversity of opinion perspective logic experience and value, don't understand that, rene girard, mirror neurons empathy sympathy adam smith knowledge as emergent endel tulving jerome bruner, resentment of achievement cain and able
identity as individual and group, humans simplify to handle complexity, positioning reis trout
non-homegenity even in identified groups, verification versus falsification karl popper, life of individual and society as iterative cycles rise and fall of israel, value hierarchies and love, openness error cycles and error correction austrian business cycle, don't understand
opportunity cost atrophy of mind shallow thoughts as not confronting reality meaning as maximal competence challenge of value

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So, yeah. There are a lot of things that could be done here. Let's see how it actually goes.

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I am going to predict right now that Amongst the Giants becomes one of the leading Christian rock bands in the United States in the next 5 years. They have the talent, skill, connections, know-how, and (as we will see here) depth. They have a great name, they have a great logo (I saw a picture of someone that already has it as a tattoo), they have excellent merchandise packages on their website, and they have all of their lyrics on their website (which I love) at https://www.amongstthegiants.com/

Amongst the Giants is a metalcore band from South Florida. Metalcore is a mix between heavy metal and hardcore punk, so it's pretty heavy rock. They released their first album, "Obscene", in 2018 with Rockfest Records. My two favorite songs are "Too Late" and "Lost in Translation". Today we will be looking at "Lost in Translation". Here are the lyrics. Then I will have a lot to say about them.

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Confidence in the dissonance and all my words
get lost in the translation -- translation

Stop throwing your false accusations
When you’re unsure of what’s fact or fiction
Let the truth speak for itself
Listen up and stop dwelling on empty lies, empty lies
When you see the motivation
You’d be inspired in the blink of an eye
All of the things that you’ve said
Would be forgotten if you gave us a chance to speak

Tonight this ends, I've done all I can do
To prove the weight behind these words
But they're wasted on you
You say that I'm fake and that's alright
I can't make you see inside
When you pretend to know who I am

To all the ones who are capped at zero
To all the young who are silenced now
To all the scared who are ready to speak your minds
Now is the time to rise

Set apart from all the lies
Breaking through to shaded eyes
Comforted amongst the truth
Bring it in, let freedom come
Free to speak your mind
Free to speak

Oh no there’s another offense line
don’t tell me now, is it what I implied?
There’s always gonna be another opinion
But now I see the verdict’s centered on crooked judgement
And maybe we’re just another example of faulty scapegoats
Did you ever stop to recognize the truth I speak, it resonates in your hearts

But at the end of the day there will always be a price on my head

Tonight this ends, I've done all I can do
To prove the weight behind these words
But they're wasted on you
You say that I'm fake and that's alright
I can't make you see inside
When you pretend to know who I am

Just hear me out, not all of us are hypocrites
Just hear me out, we’re not all the same

Prove to me I’m a liar
Prove to me I’m what you say

From cycle to cycle I’ve been at my best and my worst
Clenching on to everything I hold dear to my heart
And you come with open mouth and closed mind
Judging abundantly and denied
Ever saying you were the one who scoffed
Who’s the hypocrite now

Tonight this ends, I've done all I can do
To prove the weight behind these words
But they're wasted on you
You say that I'm fake and that's alright
I can't make you see inside
When you pretend to know who I am

So go and waste away in your shallow thoughts
I won't waste my time on people like you

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The intro starts off talking about confidence in the dissonance and things lost in translation, which is what the title of the song is referring to. What does all of this mean? Confidence comes from the Latin con fidere and means "with faith". Confidence essentially means not questioning. What is this thing we're not questioning? The dissonance. Dissonance means inconsistency, contradiction, or lack of harmony. Cognitive dissonance is when you realize a contradiction in yourself, usually a contradiction in your beliefs. We can often ignore these, but sometimes we can't. The same thing happens between people, when we're in communication with another.

The meaning of translation here is revealed over the whole song. This is true of all narratives. You have to watch all of the scenes of a movie, or read all of the parts of a book, to understand the meaning of the story in the end. You can only understand the story if you've been through all of the parts, but you can only understand the meaning of the whole thing in the end. This is true in stories and in life. Life is a story, a fully embodied narrative. Anyway, translation here isn't about changing something from one language to another literally. It's about communication in a more general way.

The process of communication starts in an individual when they sense and perceive something. Imagine that as a corner of a triangle. The next point of the triangle is the mental picture, image, or concept that they form of that perception. The last point of the triangle is when the person tries to transmit that concept through speaking, writing, or drawing. Notice that there are three points where communication can go wrong before we even add another person into the equation. The idea of this triangle is called the Semantic Triangle.

When we are in communication we do this process in reverse. Ideally the two triangles come together and reflect each other. I call this squaring the triangle and it forms the Semantic Square. Here's how it works. A person hears a word, or sees a word, or sees a picture. This is the first point of their triangle. This brings up an image, idea, concept, in their mind. This is the second point of the triangle. The last point is when and if they can then compare that concept back to a perception through their senses.

As you can see, even this basic idea of communication is no simple matter. Well, there's the intro. Let's take a look at the first verse.

The first verse starts off talking about false accusations from someone that doesn't know what's fact or fiction. I think this is really pointing to a major social problem that humans have been dealing with for a couple thousand years. We haven't figured out how to solve it and this problem just keeps getting worse. Here's the problem, humans do well at cooperating and interacting when we live in individualized groups where we actually know the people we're interacting with. But, we don't do so great when we're in anonymous communities where we don't know the people we're interacting with. Add to that the idea of Dunbar's Number, which is that we can only really maintain stable relationships with about 150 people (obviously this fluctuates from person to person, but that doesn't matter so much because the basic problem of a low limit still remains). This means that in public we are dealing with people we don't know that don't know us and this causes problems, especially in communication and understanding.

The truth speaking for itself is promoting the idea of not misrepresenting something, which is so easy to do in these anonymous communities that we live in. Lies are empty when there is nothing to back them up. They are problems, but full lies are bigger problems. True dialogue can only happen when we are willing to be genuine and are seeking depth in truth.

Now, when we start talking about seeing someone's motivation and judging them upon it we are getting onto some interesting ground in ethics. This is about intentions versus consequences. Should we judge people based upon their intentions or the consequences? Here the song lyrics are pointing us towards the intentions, the motivations. The basic idea here is that interactions are iterative, they happen over and over. Life is lived across time, not in a moment. We must factor all of these future moments into our judgments. By having good intentions we give ourselves the chance to correct our errors and get better and better over time. That's why we should judge people based upon their intentions. Most people agree with this and act like this, in individualized groups at least.

We are on to the chorus. Tonight this ends is talking about breaking interaction with someone after having tried all that you can try. This only makes sense. We essentially have three possible ways we can interact; we can cooperate, compete, or disengage. If we can't cooperate it's often best to disengage. There is a danger here of closing yourself off from all that you don't understand. Engaging with challenge in all its forms is important to growth, but conflict isn't usually a good thing to seek either.

Weight is interesting here because it means both truth and importance. People cannot look into each other. We can try, we can work to understand each other, and to a large extent we are made to do that. But, you definitely can't make someone else put forth the effort to do that. Experience is singular, it's experienced as an individual. We have autonomy, but not over others. We have to allow for them to use their autonomy to engage in cooperative communication with us. We have a locus of control, and the depths of another person's mind should not be something that you can control.

The second verse contains quite a lot. Being capped at zero is very bad. It's very hard to go from zero to one. It's much easier to get more if you already have some. Peter Thiel talks about this in the context of business in his book "Zero to One" where he's talking about inventing new technology. This is the whole point of the Matthew Effect, which works with money, fame, status, and so much more. Jesus talks about it in the Parable of Talents, "For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away." "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer." These ideas are sometimes called virtuous circles and vicious cycles. In economics it's called accumulative advantage. In math there are a number of power laws dealing with this like the Pareto distribution (the 80/20 law), Zipf's law, and Price's square root law. The basic idea is that you don't want to be at zero. These are the dispossessed that exist in all societies in all of history.

It's good to address the young, because they own the future. They have the most potential. It's also important that the not young lead the way, but it's good to address the young when you want changes in the future. You can be silenced for two reasons: 1 - you are not allowed to speak, 2 - you don't allow yourself to speak. This silencing of the young is addressed in the next line where it talks about being scared. If you're scared to speak it can be a legitimate fear of reprisals. That's a hard position. Or, it can be a false fear that you should face. The best way to beat fear is exposure. Exposure that is at the right pace so you can adjust to it. The fear won't necessarily go down, but you will develop more courage in the face of fear and gain the ability and capacity to act. Now is the time is usually a good idea, because even if it isn't a great time for something there is a larger danger of falling into procrastination. Which, I don't know about you, but for me it's far too easy to stay there when I fall in.

Seeing the truth is often associated with the metaphor of being exposed to light. The idea of Plato's Cave is about this where a man steps out of the dark cave and can't see anything for a moment while his eyes adjust. I'm not sure about being comforted by the truth. Sometimes the truth is comforting, sometimes it is the opposite. So, I think that's contextual.

There are two very interesting lines here where the song states "Free to speak your mind" followed by "Free to speak". This is important. Thought occurs in words. They are like the software of our minds, or better, one of the software languages that our minds use to think. We develop the ability to speak socially. Lev Vygotsky developed this idea of the social development of the mind. It's about being around a "more knowing other" who exposes you to the right amount of information so that you can learn, this is called the "zone of proximal development." Adults do this with children naturally, we speak to children just above their current level of understanding, that way their skill and ability grows. Jerome Bruner expanded on this idea and called it "scaffolding" in education. If we limit freedom of association, interaction, and speech we not only limit these things, we literally limit the ability to think and the ability to develop the capacity for thought. This is huge! The freedom to speak is the freedom to speak your mind is the freedom to think.

The very next line talks about being offensive in a funny way. Then we jump into the idea of things being implied versus explicit. This is legitimate, it does happen and it does happen often. Eric Berne, the founder of Transactional Analysis in psychology, talks about conversations happening on two levels. It's often the problem that foreign language speakers have in the new language. They understand what's being said but not what's not being said, especially through things like half-spoken idioms (weird phrases) where everyone knows what you mean, except the people who don't. The legitimate idea of implied communication can be used in a disingenuous way where you just say that whenever people say something you don't like you tell them that they are implying something else. It's a dangerous version of communication for both sides. It's difficult to correctly balance these scales, especially when you add in the diversity of perspective, experience, and value.

"There's always going to be another opinion" is just a truth. There are so many in today's world, and even yesterday's world, that one of the most important skills in life is the ability to ignore things, to filter your own intake.

A verdict is only legitimate if the judge isn't crooked. If the judge is corrupt or bias then the verdict cannot be the legitimate authority. So, if someone is doing these things in their communication with you then their opinion isn't founded on solid ground anyway.

Rene Girard has written quite a lot about scapegoats. It's a complex phenomenon, and it's also very human. They feature prominently in his theory of society called mimetic theory. A scapegoat is someone that is falsely accused of something and sacrificed. Girard lays this social mechanism as the very foundation of society itself, and the Bible as revealing this process for what it is and denouncing it. The fact that the song says "faulty scapegoats" is interesting, but I'll let us both continue to think about that one in silence.

Recognizing truth is not a simple thing. Knowledge is emergent over time. Endel Tulving talks about the three levels of knowledge and how it develops. First there is procedural knowledge. We can act things out before we can communicate them, or represent them, or think about them. The action comes first. This even applies to complex things. Jaak Panksepp has shown that even rats have a sense of fairness built into their interactions when they play and wrestle. We act out very complex truths. Next is episodic knowledge. We have a memory of a scene, or there is a picture, or a painting, or an image. We remember how the action worked and we can represent this. Finally there is semantic knowledge. This is where we abstract things into words. Now we can speak about them. But there is a danger here. The base of the knowledge in procedure and episode, in action and image, can't be lost or we will end up talking about untrue things. (As an aside, notice how narrative stories use semantic knowledge through words to convey episodic knowledge in scenes of procedural knowledge in the behavior patterns across the story. Amazing! That's why I love stories.)

Truth resonating in the heart is great symbology. I see it as words penetrating the person and having a direct effect on their heart. We need this, and we are built for this. When Adam Smith made his proposal for capitalism most people don't realize that he was a moral philosopher before that. He said that a free society can only work if the people have sympathy (now we would more use the word empathy) for one another. We need this to cooperate. We need ideas, beliefs, and values that we can empathize with in each other. We have something in our brains called mirror neurons. The purpose of these is so that we can feel what another person is feeling. Empathy is built right into us.

"But at the end of the day there will always be a price on my head". I'm still trying to unpack that line. It's right next to scapegoating, so it's obviously talking about that. I will leave this, but I will point this out before I do. Jesus had a price on his head. Jesus was a local scapegoat for Jews and Romans. Jesus was also a scapegoat in a much larger sense.

We will jump over the chorus and end up on the bridge.

It's almost a pleading to be heard, to show that they aren't a hypocrite. This is such a desire to be understood. For someone to understand the structure of their thoughts and beliefs and how they align with their actions. It also points out that the group they identify with aren't all the same. Even when people are part of a group they are still individuals. Groups are groups of something, the individual is the right level of analysis for beliefs, thoughts, ideas, and values when we can do it. Just because someone is involved with a group doesn't mean the group is homogenous. That would be quite a rare circumstance.

"Prove to me I'm a liar", "Prove to me I'm what you say". These are interesting lines back to back. They are asking to be shown their own contradictions, and if you can't show these then you can't show the propositions to be false. And, when the other person proposes something they are asking for proof. These need to be read together otherwise they could be taken as contradictory themselves. What we're talking about here is who has the burden of proof and how you find out if something is wrong. Karl Popper is the greatest philosopher of science in history. His primary idea is that we don't prove and verify a theory, we disprove and refute theories. If we can't refute it, that adds to its force as a theory to work with in the future. Just something to think about.

Life can be seen as a cycle, or even a cycle of cycles. At one point we may be our best selves and at another our worst. This is true of an individual and a society. The Old Testament can be read as the story of the cyclical rise and fall of the state of Israel.

We do clench onto the things we hold dear. This is all about value hierarchies. We all operate off of value hierarchies all of the time, without this it would be completely impossible to act. At the very top of the value hierarchy are the things we love, indeed, this can be seen as a definition of love itself.

Open mouths and closed minds is a bad state to be in. It leads to error. It's not fun to be on the other side either. These errors are themselves cycles. There is a great paper that is starting an in-depth exploration of what many of these error cycles really mean at the biggest level called "Toward a General Theory of Error Cycles" by Jorg Guido Hulsmann. The people that have these open mouths and closed minds are great at judging, but bad at finding the truth, and thus they are often denied in many ways. I'm not sure I'm understanding the scoffed at part quite right. It seems to me that these same people often claim that they are scoffed at, but because of their closed minds they tend to do a lot of scoffing of other people, which is quite hypocritical.

To take another look at the chorus, to waste words on someone has a cost to it. Not just the potential cost of lost energy and the build up of emotional frustration, but also the lost opportunities. The other things that you could have been effective and useful at. In economics this is called opportunity cost and it applies to everything in life. At some point you just have to walk away. If someone is pretending to know who you are but they won't actually engage with you, then you're probably at that point. Now, it's important to realize that we all live in a world that is too complex for us. Ries and Trout talk about the business implications of this in "Positioning". We have to simplify. One of the ways to simplify is to take the group identity of someone and assume that as their whole identity. This is obviously wrong, but to manage the complexity of the world we have to reduce it down. And, it works, somewhat. It's not entirely wrong, it's just not as right as it could be if you engage with someone on a personal level to understand them. To a large extent that's what this whole song is about.

The outro also talks about this idea of wasting time, this opportunity cost. "Shallow thoughts" is interesting because to a large extent depth in thought comes from questioning things. This questioning of ideas, this doubt, is the opposite of confidence, which is where we started in the intro. I really like how they brought that back around. In public speaking I usually refer to this as bracketing, coming back around to your opening statement in your last statement. "Shallow thoughts" can also refer to thoughts that aren't important, thoughts that don't focus on things of value. In this case depth in thought would be something like focusing on the maximal challenge that you can confront and be competent at that has the most value. This is where meaning is found. This meaning orientation is a major part of being human. Psychologists from Viktor Frankl to Jordan Peterson emphasize how important this is. And really, both of these ideas about depth, depth in understanding and meaning, are important.

Wow! Ok, that was a lot of stuff. I think more could be gained from this, but I'm not sure how much more I could really pull from it and articulate well. I think this clearly shows how much depth there can be in lyrics though. I think a lot of people see hard rock, especially this type where there is a lot of screaming and such, as a rather shallow and non-intellectual activity. It can be, but it doesn't have to be, and Amongst the Giants really shows that here in these lyrics. I would love to hear their take on this crazy breakdown I've given, so if you know them or get a chance - shoot them this article and tell them to get back to me. I'm curious what they would say.

Jeff Martin

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Well, that got crazy. I think I said enough in that article that I don't need to say anything else here.


I've written three fictional pieces that I like so far.

"The City of Peace" - A future history science fiction utopia/dystopia action adventure in a framed story of a father telling his son a story about the child's grandfather. That was a crazy sentence.


"The Birth of Hanniba'al" - A dark, somewhat alternative, historical origin story for the Carthage General Hannibal.


"Matt's Eyes" - Don't read this if you don't like horror stories.


Here are three of my most popular posts.

"The Making of a Great First Line in Fiction"


"A Letter to My Niece in 2034"


"The Most Important Question in Philosophy - Part 4 of 4"


You can find more of what I'm doing here: http://www.JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com

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