fight4thefuture

Are We Human or Are We Dancer

Recommended Posts

Are We Human or Are We Dancer

By John C.

“Are we human or are we dancer

My sign is vital, my hands are cold

And I'm on my knees

Looking for the answer”

- The Killers

Las Vegas alternative rock band The Killer’s latest hit single is called “Human.” In the weeks following its release, it has sparked a mass controversy over the internet, specifically whether the main line of the song is “Are we human or are we dancer” or “Are we human or are we denser.” After all, dancers do tend to be human beings, and after the past century, it is a legitimate question whether human beings can be called ‘civilized.’ I cleared out my ears and cranked up the volume, and although it was hard to tell, it still sounded like they were saying dancer. Were my ears deceiving me? Was the band trying to pull one over on me? Did they mean Dancer, as in Santa’s reindeer Dancer? These now famous lines have been dubbed “The Silliest Lyrics of the Week” by Entertainment Weekly, though some fans have come up with some pretty deep interpretations of the song. Does the “dancer” have any meaning at all? But then again, is there a meaning to being a human either? I think The Killers might be on to something.

“All the world’s a stage and all of us merely” dancers. It certainly seems as if life can be choreographed at times. Sometimes we just go through the motions without rhyme or reason. We follow the music and listen to the crowd. Every morning I embark on the bus and plug my iPod into my head. I may not be physically dancing, but I need something for my mind to dance to. I need something to take my spirit up and twirl it about on the divine dance floor. I need a beat. I need motion. I need emotion. I need something to embrace me, to consume me, to bathe me, to cleanse me, to rock me back and forth. But if life was a dance, then where is the grace? Where is the pace? Where is the all-consuming embrace? Is life purely physical like dancing or is there something else? Do we even have free will, or is it more along the lines of free style dancing? Sometimes I want to be human and think things through, but sometimes I just want to be able to turn on the music and dance the nights away...

I see this all the time. Kids who can not decide whether they want to be humans or dancers. They go to parties every weekend, get blown away, stay up until 3am in the morning. They are addicted to the dance floor. It is where they go for safety and to surrender their nature as human beings. No talking or thinking is necessary for dancing. You just have to feel the beat pulsating inside of you and sway to the gyrating groove. It enables you to give up the intellectual for the physical, your mind for your body, your reason to your feelings. In America, rave parties often attract more than 20,000 people. Starting in the 1980s, teenagers and young adults began going to these huge parties to just go wild and forget themselves. The events are usually accompanied by fog lights and drugs to complete the effect. I am half Turkish, and I have always been fascinated by the Whirling Dervishes, a religious sect which uses dance to experience an out of body experience. They dance endlessly in circles to leave their human bodies and reach religious ecstasy or majdhb, fana with God. I am sure if you asked them if they were humans or dancers, they would say they were dancers. Jump onto the giant hook and you will soon become a marionette puppeteered by the music, a puddle dropped into a vast ocean manipulated by the waxing and waning of a musical moon. Do not believe me? Try it yourself. Go to a typical Allied dance and watch your fidgeting peers before they switch into dancing mode. We are so used to using a different part of our brains that it is difficult for us to transition. We are so used to being in control that it is hard for us to let go of that control and let something else lead us for a change. Not even to let lead, but just to be led. Hip-hop, fate, God, or nature, it is all one in the same. Yet ever wonder why the smartest kids are the ones who are most gifted at music? Why Mozart was not only a musical genius, but a genius générale? The music which helps us escape logic is ironically sound shaped into a logical pattern. That is why it is so hard to answer the question, are we human or are we dancers? It is like asking what came first, the chicken or the egg? The music or the dancer?

If life is a dance and humans dancers, then for it to be real, it can not be just a recital. It has to be a live show with a real, live audience. Who or what constitutes that audience is the question which has plagued mankind since we first began pirouetting on our tip toes. Is our audience ourselves, God, or society? If we are our own audience then the goal of each of our shows should be to just entertain ourselves and do what makes us happy. If God is our audience, the supreme judge of good and bad—dance styles that is—then the purpose of each of our shows is to please God, and Heaven would be reminiscent of Dancing with the Stars, the real stars. If society is our audience, then our goal should be to entertain others and get as many fans and followers as we can get by giving them a performance they will never forget. Aristotle danced for himself. Mother Teresa danced for God. John Lennon danced for others.

Whatever The Killers meant by their song “Human,” they have gotten humans both on and off the dance floor to question what exactly it means to be “human.” Finally stifling the debate, though not the confusion, the band has confirmed on their website that the lyrics do indeed say “dancer” and not “denser.” Brandon Flowers, the vocalist and keyboard player, has said in an interview that it is actually a reference to a remark made by the late Hunter S. Thompson, an American psychedelic journalist and author, who said that Americans were being raised to be a generation of dancers. Maybe he was right.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Julian; One of my favorite quotes is from Emma Goldman who said "I don't want to be in the revolution is there is no dancing." If someone know the exact quote please correct me. I don't want to live in a world without dancing. I must also I am not very good.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not sure I did this right, but want to reply to Julian assessment of Are We Dancer.

Context: I am objectivist, age 59, and have been objectivist since I was in my late teens. I was once a crusader and initiator of the original wave of the libertarian movement, including being editor of the nation's first objectivist/anarchocapitalist periodical. Since then I have moved into financial markets and now manage successful hedge fund.

As an objectivist I am always tend to look for linkages with rational/emotional value sources - film, books, music. Saw Killers on SNL months ago and was stunned by the precision of their music (my first hook) and then the words began to catch me. Music and lyrics - what a refreshing, stunning change.

I then downloaded the video and have since read the words. As a logician and lover of the emotion of the song, I can come away with nothing but an affirmative assessment of this song. As always, a song writer can contain and release emotions and thoughts in a song that result in beauty and logic, but those thoughts did not necessarily come from a writer who was fully integrated when he produced those thoughts and emotions. We as rational recipients of such beauty must be willing and capable of understanding that.

I do not know the philosophical or emotional source of this song (the writer) but the coincidence of the lyrics is too solid to dismiss as accident, even if the writer did not fully understand he notions when he was writing them.

Too much here suggests objectivist (or proto-objectivist yearnings) to be casually dismissed. I suggest this is a pop song of stellar quality, that any lover of reason and consequent emotion should listen to and listen to - and even download the video version. The tune and beat are emotionally uplifting and certainly the lyrics are STUNNING. Accidents do not happen is my opinion. Thanks Julian for being one of few who discerned this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

mrintegrity,

Welcome to OL.

After such a ringing endorsement, I went ahead and listened to the song and delved into the lyrics. You are right. It is a really good song. It's cool Julian did a thing on it.

Words have a cognitive meaning and an emotional load. The art of poetry is to focus more on the emotional load than the cognitive meaning, but the rub comes if the words get so divorced from their cognitive meaning that they lose all meaning. Good poetry—and good lyrics—manage to wiggle down into your subconscious train of thought and make sense down there.

One trick used a lot in rock-like pop culture to get between the cracks is to treat a noun as an adjective, like treating the noun "dancer" as an adjective similar to "human" (which can be both noun or adjective, but is an adjective as a direct object without the article "a"), eliminating articles like "a," mixing plural with singular, etc. Odd usages call attention to themselves and tickle subconscious integration strings if they make some kind of cognitive sense.

You also get a lot of new rhymes that way. For instance, what else rhymes with answer that could be as rich in the emotional load part? Cancer? Lancer? Prancer?

:)

In this song, this effect came off well. Part of the reason was the religious insinuation of being on your knees looking for an answer. Even for Objectivists, the impulse behind deep prayer (looking for the meaning of life and the why of it all, especially why we have to die, or why be good when the good and bad both die in the end) is a strong one.

I hear the words wedded to the disco-like pulse and a memorable melody (which is a relief compared to a lot of the stuff out there) touching on the issue of the mind-body dichotomy almost on a pre-verbal level. Which is more important, mind or body? Free will or genes? Are we in control of our destinies or or we mere accidents dancing to the music of blind chance, or even dancing to the music of a Higher Power?

These are good questions and we all feel them rise within us when we get reflective. It is rare to see such reflectiveness injected in a context where reflection is supposed to be turned off and a person is just supposed to feel and move.

These guys managed to do that. If anyone thinks that's easy, they should try it. I remember another older band who did this kind of stuff in a more religious vein (and a vastly different musical style): Tears for Fears, like in the song "Love is God's Mistake."

I normally don't like this kind of music (although I produced some similar stuff in Brazil), but I intend to keep an eye on The Killers.

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, mrintegrity!

I hear the words wedded to the disco-like pulse and a memorable melody (which is a relief compared to a lot of the stuff out there) touching on the issue of the mind-body dichotomy almost on a pre-verbal level. Which is more important, mind or body? Free will or genes? Are we in control of our destinies or or we mere accidents dancing to the music of blind chance, or even dancing to the music of a Higher Power?

These are good questions and we all feel them rise within us when we get reflective. It is rare to see such reflectiveness injected in a context where reflection is supposed to be turned off and a person is just supposed to feel and move.

These guys managed to do that. If anyone thinks that's easy, they should try it. I remember another older band who did this kind of stuff in a more religious vein (and a vastly different musical style): Tears for Fears, like in the song "Love is God's Mistake."

I normally don't like this kind of music (although I produced some similar stuff in Brazil), but I intend to keep an eye on The Killers.

Michael

And amen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Old topic, but I love this song and thought I'd add my interpretation.

The band has said the song is based on the Hunter S. Thompson quote that America was raising "a generation of dancers." Thompson's meaning isn't immediately obvious, because we normally use dancing metaphors to describe an independent and free-spirited person ("she dances to her own tune"). What Thompson meant was not freestyle dancers, but choreographed dancers who move according to another person's design. Square dancing would be a good example, where there is quite literally a voice booming from on high telling the dancers what their next move will be, and stepping out of line can result in the scorn of the rest of the square.

Once this is explained, the meaning of the lyric "Are we Human, or are we Dancer?" becomes fairly obvious: are we living up to the aspects of our species that make us human (being free, rational beings), or are we just mindlessly going through the motions that someone else has prescribed?

The rest of the lyrics bear this out:

"Sometimes I get nervous, when I see an open door" — talking about how it can be frightening to escape from the comforting lull of conformity and cut your own path in the world.

"Close your eyes, clear your heart... and cut the cord" — encouraging listeners to embrace individualism, and shed the shackles of a safety net.

"Pay my respects to grace and virtue, send my condolences to good. Give my regards to soul and romance, they always did the best they could. And so long to devotion, you taught me everything I know." — This is a bit more muddled with its rejection of "virtue" and "good," but it seems to be a farewell to religion and abstract spiritual concepts like "soul" and "grace." To me, this implies that he's leaving to seek for meaning elsewhere (presumably basing it on something more concrete).

I find it to be quite an uplifting song!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's funny, eh. On one hand, we can be humans who are blindly dancing to the beat of everybody else... selfless. On another hand, we can be internal-driven, either deeply connected with our truth or deeply suppressing the impulse to dance on the stage of another.

It seems being human is mostly lived being in the middle, knowing that both these roads exist and that sometimes we will react one way or the other. It's a real conflict for almost everybody to try always and consistently dancing to one's internal tune (or at least in my observations it seems to be). And then we find art that emphasizes the conflict rather than a particular side, and that art connects deeply and authentically because it represents our real struggles and challenges to live life.

Christopher

- who would rather read about a human character attempting to overcome flaws than read about a perfect god

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Old topic, but I love this song and thought I'd add my interpretation.

The band has said the song is based on the Hunter S. Thompson quote that America was raising "a generation of dancers." Thompson's meaning isn't immediately obvious, because we normally use dancing metaphors to describe an independent and free-spirited person ("she dances to her own tune"). What Thompson meant was not freestyle dancers, but choreographed dancers who move according to another person's design. Square dancing would be a good example, where there is quite literally a voice booming from on high telling the dancers what their next move will be, and stepping out of line can result in the scorn of the rest of the square.

Once this is explained, the meaning of the lyric "Are we Human, or are we Dancer?" becomes fairly obvious: are we living up to the aspects of our species that make us human (being free, rational beings), or are we just mindlessly going through the motions that someone else has prescribed?

The rest of the lyrics bear this out:

"Sometimes I get nervous, when I see an open door" — talking about how it can be frightening to escape from the comforting lull of conformity and cut your own path in the world.

"Close your eyes, clear your heart... and cut the cord" — encouraging listeners to embrace individualism, and shed the shackles of a safety net.

"Pay my respects to grace and virtue, send my condolences to good. Give my regards to soul and romance, they always did the best they could. And so long to devotion, you taught me everything I know." — This is a bit more muddled with its rejection of "virtue" and "good," but it seems to be a farewell to religion and abstract spiritual concepts like "soul" and "grace." To me, this implies that he's leaving to seek for meaning elsewhere (presumably basing it on something more concrete).

I find it to be quite an uplifting song!

Mark:

Welcome to OL. I agree with your analysis of the song and I am increasing my appreciation of it the more I listen to it and delve into the lyrics.

Take any pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge lately?

Adam

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...