I have long been a fan of the Canadian rock band, Rush. Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart are all virtuosic musicians. My appreciation of this band comes from my father, who fell in love with Rush in the years of his youth. I grew up singing along to "Closer to the Heart" and "the Trees." For a long time, no road trip was complete without my father and I air-drumming to Peart's insane drum riffs in "Tom Sawyer" and "YYZ." In the past year or two, my father and I have seen Rush twice and I continue to be amazed at the sheer magnificence of their musical ability.
The lyrics are below and you can listen to the song here.
Half the World by Rush (1996, Test for Echo)
Half the world hates What half the world does every day Half the world waits While half gets on with it anyway
Half the world lives Half the world makes Half the world gives While the other half takes
Half the world is Half the world was Half the world thinks While the other half does
Half the world talks With half a mind on what they say Half the world walks With half a mind to run away
Half the world lies Half the world learns Half the world flies As half the world turns
Half the world cries Half the world laughs Half the world tries To be the other half
Half of us divided Like a torn-up photograph Half of us are trying To reach the other half
Half the world cares While half the world is wasting the day Half the world shares While half the world is stealing away
For those who are familiar with the discography of Rush, this song stands in contrast to the technically intricate and rhythmically diverse tunes of their work in the 60's, 70's, and 80's. For me, the simplicity of the melody allows me to focus more on the lyrics which are composed by drummer Neil Peart (who is considered by many to be one of the most talented drummers in the history of rock).
This song is first and foremost driven not only by the rhythm and the melody but by the verbs as well. As we are taught in seminary to engage in scripture, we are told by many a professor to look at the verbs in the text. Many times, as I am preparing a sermon, I will simply take a separate sheet of paper and write down each of the verbs in the passage to get a feel of the action of the text.
The brilliant lyrics of this song provide verbs which give voice to the separation in this world. It is clear that the members who make up the band Rush see the world as a world of divisions (for more on this theme, see their song "Subdivisions" to get an idea of this familiar Rush motif). Half of the world gives, half of the world takes. Half cries, half laughs, half tries to be the other half. It almost sounds as if this text belongs in the book of Amos rather than in a 1996 rock song!
What are the divisions in your life? What half of the world are you in? The one that laughs or the one that cries? The one that gives or the one that takes? Food for thought...