Pale Imitation of Love

Yesterday on the ride home from work, all the radio stations were playing sad songs, which didn’t make any sense because it was Friday. The DJs should have been playing something more upbeat as a precursor to the weekend. Then “Iris” (Goo Goo Dolls) began to play. (Still a sad song, but at least it was a song I could sing along [badly] to.)

I’ve heard the song countless times, and although it’s horribly mainstream and I’m somewhat of a hipster, I count it among my favorites because (never mind, it doesn’t matter—just listen to the song and you’ll understand). It’s your classic love song and is often played at weddings. But when I heard it today, I thought about it in a new light.

I was thinking of all the Christian rock songs that could very easily be misconstrued as boy-girl romantic love songs and all the boy-girl romantic love songs that could easily be reinterpreted as Christian songs and yearnings for the love of God. The love between two human beings is merely a pale imitation of the love that God has for us.

The lyrics of “Iris” could be interpreted to be about someone at Mass who is distraught because he cannot receive Communion. Perhaps this person is not a Catholic at all but someone who wants to learn more about God and the faith. This person has been misunderstood by the world and everyone in it, and all he wants is to be understood by the One who created him—the only One who could ever understand him completely. Perhaps this person falls to his knees as he hears the words of the consecration and sees the Blessed Sacrament elevated, knowing that he cannot receive Christ’s Body but vowing at that very moment to take the steps he needs to take to someday be able to.

Ah, the beauty of song lyrics and poetry—you can interpret them however you want to.

7 thoughts on “Pale Imitation of Love

  1. This happens a few different ways, I think.

    One is that people do misinterpret things, the same way they (we) mishear lyrics (I’ve known people who cheerfully continue to sing their wrong lyrics even after being helpfully directed to the lyric sheet 🙂 ).

    And it also happens that some songs are written deliberately to be ambiguous. Part of being a successful commercial songwriter is writing songs that different people can relate to in different ways. I think of the way Melissa Etheridge used to write love songs to “you,” to draw in the people who might have had trouble relating to a love song that she was obviously addressing to a woman.

    But I think some songs are deliberately written to nudge listeners toward the sort of comparisons your post brings out. Bob Dylan’s song “I Believe in You” has always seemed to me to head in that direction.

    (Writing on my phone. Trying to avoid typos…)


    1. And that’s why I love music so much. No two people ever get the same meaning out of a song, even when the meaning seems perfectly clear from the lyrics.


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