It’s been almost thirty years since I first wrote about Pink Floyd. To be honest, I never felt compelled until last Thursday, when my friend Dave, who co-teaches my English 11 class with me, mentioned Pink Floyd while we reviewed the words for a vocabulary test. More on that later, but for now, let me take you back to 1989.
I’m in seventh grade, reading about Pink Floyd for a report for school. I listen to a lot of their music, not the deepest cuts, but the best stuff. The Dark Side of the Moon. The Wall. Wish You Were Here. And more recently, I’ve bought the live album Delicate Sound of Thunder on cassette, which fascinates me with its pictures and liner notes. I’m also learning to play guitar, which is mostly due to my love of David Gilmour, the lead guitarist from Pink Floyd. Naturally, when Mrs. O’Connor, my English teacher, assigns a report, I pick my favorite band, and she lets it ride. I find an article or two and complete my outline. Soon I’m writing the essay, and when it’s done, I slip it into a blue folder, decorating the front with a couple pictures and blazing the band’s name neatly across the top. I can still remember walking into class with that report in hand.
Here’s the reason that story’s important. After publishing last week’s post about Walden, I thought I had finished with Henry David Thoreau for a while, but then the Pink Floyd connection surfaced. We’re reviewing the vocabulary for our Transcendentalism test, discussing the word fritter, which means to waste money and time on inconsequential things—a thoroughly Thoreau theme—and Dave, who often surprises me, brings up the lyrics of “Time” from The Dark Side of the Moon. Boom! There it is, in the opening lyrics no less, and I’d never made the connection. Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day / Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way. And with that revelation, I get nostalgic about that essay I wrote so long ago, when I was listening to Pink Floyd almost every day. It’s not déjà vu, but some other feeling, suggesting the hidden connectedness of our actions. Maybe a happy coincidence, though I’d like to think of it as more than that.
Later I keep digging. I’m reading the lyrics to “Time” when I make another connection: Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way. It just keeps getting better; I mean this is surely a direct allusion to Thoreau’s famous line in Walden, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Soon I’m Googling keywords, digging for more confirmation, and I’m beside myself when I find an entire essay comparing the themes of Thoreau to The Dark Side of the Moon. I’m scrolling pages, looking at blog posts mentioning the same thing, too. I even learn that Thoreau’s famous aphorism about “quiet desperation” may be not entirely original. It’s all good, though, and pretty soon, I’m up in my attic, digging through boxes, looking for that old report. I still have it after thirty years.
So where does it all begin? Was it with the mention of the word fritter? Was it the moment I chose to include the word on that vocabulary list several years ago? Or was it when I heard The Wall for the first time, playing through my father’s car stereo? I’m not sure, but there’s this line from Walden that comes to mind. “The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us . . . There is more day to dawn.” It’s from the final paragraph of the book, and suggests the end is really not the end, but perhaps only a beginning. There’s something more to see, more to understand, more to connect. Maybe we’re just on the dark side of the moon.