The Trapeze Act

In Coldplay’s song “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall” you may be led to believe there are a bunch of random lines and cheap rhymes that have no meaning or reason to them. I know when I first heard the song and read the lyrics I thought this song doesn’t seem to be about much of anything. The song itself seems, at best, much lighter material in lyrical content that I would consider what is typical of Chris Martin. For a line by line examination (with plenty of sarcasm to go around) please check out the following:

I was having coffee with a new friend a couple of days ago. We talked about our backgrounds, and what led us to the places we are in life presently. At one point, we were talking about the current state of affairs with our generation, our culture, and the Church as a whole. He brought up a line in the song and put it into a perspective I hadn’t thought about before. Since that conversation I’ve been mulling it all over and I feel as though I’ve stumbled upon something somewhat profound, and something I feel is worth reflecting on…

Though you and I may listen to the song and hear the opening music (with the obvious chord structure sampled from the 1976 song “I Go To Rio” by Peter Allen and Adrienne Anderson), the opening line “I turn the music up, I put my records on..” and immediately think this song is just another cliche party song for the younger pop generation that has seemed to be fueling the recent domination of shallow, robotic, undeserving pop songs at the top of the charts. I admit upon my first listen of this song, I thought Coldplay finally either sold out, lost their Midas touch, or finally set their career on the tracks to inevitable demise. But because it is Coldplay, and I respect the hell out of them and what they’ve done, I gave it a few more listens. I wrote the song off months later and decided I was done with it and had moved on. But thanks to my recent conversation, I revisited the song and realized a (most likely unintended) meaning behind one of the lyrics in the song. 


There’s a line in the song that says “Maybe I’m in the black, maybe I’m on my knees. Maybe I’m in the gap between the two trapezes.” When I first heard this line last summer when the song was released, I nearly laughed out loud at the seemingly obvious cheap rhyming that had just taken place. But thanks to my friend’s insight, I now see a new meaning behind this line, whether intended or not…

If we look at our culture as a whole and the current state it is in, we can’t help but acknowledge the overwhelming sense of uncertainty that seems to plague the country, like a toxin filling the air, seeping into anything and everything around us. Uncertainty permeates our media, books, schools, jobs, religions, and families. Its everywhere we look. Just 30 years ago life seemed simpler, more understood. Gas was affordable, jobs were obtainable, and the idea of taking care of yourself and your family was not only realistic, but expected. Maybe in another 30 years our culture will find some sense of security again, or maybe not. Either way, there’s this dominating circumstance we can’t ignore. This constant of struggle and pain, of survival. Lets revisit the song’s lyrics. I’m not sure what the line “maybe I’m in the black” means exactly. It could mean a type of positive in profit, as exhibited in the often used language of retail, or it could mean a sense of veiling oneself with mourning, and conceding to the circumstances. Considering the next line “maybe I’m on my knees” and the clear comparison between the two, Martin seems to be trying to make a clear distinction of opposites, which leads me to believe “the black” is probably a sense of nothingness, or numbness, in context with the rest of the song. Whereas the next line is the contrast to numbness with being overcome by said circumstances and feeling the strong sense of desperation and neediness, much like a beggar who has lost all hope and acknowledges his need for help. 

So we come to the line I think is the most important of all. “Maybe I’m in the gap between the two trapezes.” Have you ever been to a circus? Neither have I. But I’ve seen these trapeze acts in movies, tv shows, and youtube videos (I confess I just watched about 10 of them). The thing that I find interesting about trapeze acts is the fact that someone is willing to leave one place of security, and suspend themselves between two points of safety in the most uncertain and unsafe of places, and in the midst of such danger and uncertainty, still manage to create something beautiful and amazing in the process. I think this is what our culture is in the process of doing right now. 

Our generation is trying so hard to find its identity in the face of such an opposition as uncertainty. We are in between two points of safety. We have left the safety of the life our parents and grandparents knew (post depression era of course), and are on a journey to something new, in the hope that we find some new form of safety on the other side. Right now we are suspended in the middle of our insecurity and uncertainty, trying to find ourselves as a nation, as a culture, as a generation in the shadow of the unknown. But in the midst of such uncertainty there is beauty and creativity. Its in this dangerous and most confusing time that we are pushed as a whole to be something new, something unique. We are forced to rediscover our vigor for life, our need for each other, and our love for works of inspiration that come from the deepest recesses of our heart and mind. The only security we can find is in the creative expression of honesty and genuineness of our emotions, experiences, and pain. Its through these expressions that we can feel bound together. We are reminded we aren’t alone in this struggle, and life becomes something of worth to us again. 

I understand this in a very personal way. I see this same longing for something more in my own life. I ache for greater experiences, for adventure and passion. I yearn for the things tomorrow will bring, in the hope that it will usher in something so much better than today. Life has to become real again. Love must be restored in my eyes. I find my heart is made new in the gap between the two trapezes. The gap is everything. The gap is where dreams are made alive. The gap is where fears are realized, hope is strengthened, faith is a forced reality, and love is the only thing that matters. In that moment of suspension where we find ourselves feeling gravity taking control and pulling us to our untimely demise, we strive for the other side and overcome the obstacles, defeating the odds, and rise to the challenge to prove history wrong. 

I want my life to tell a story worth telling. I want my story to be a story that proves that life is worth living because you can do anything you want, anything you can dream up. The odds may be against me right now, but that doesn’t mean I can’t prove everyone wrong and do something great with my life. Isn’t that the heart of the American dream, or dare I say…the dream of our very human existence? The idea that one can do something in one lifetime that impacts many lifetimes, and fulfill the deepest passions of one’s heart. That’s the dream I want to make my reality. I understand I have most definitely read waaay too much into that song….But why not dream big and let things inspire you? Music is meant for individual interpretation. What about you? What’s your dream? What have you read too much into lately? 


For a more complete history of the song:


One thought on “The Trapeze Act

  1. It truly is interesting how multiple people can listen to a song and hear so many different things. When I first heard this song I honestly thought nothing of it in fact I kind of hated It, but now looking back there seems to be some very interesting aspects to the song which I had never noticed till you pointed it out :)! This made me think and now I have a totally new respect for it. Sometimes reading to deep into things is a good thing, over thinking isn’t always bad! 🙂

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