Saving The World By Staying “Half A World Away” – Some Hope From R.E.M.

Self-quarantine. Stay at home. Social distancing. Shelter in place. Isolation.

Keeping yourself “half a world away.”

One of the starker realities of this COVID-19 epidemic is that my neighbors and my family in other states are all literally “half a world” away. That possible human exchange and interaction that fulfills the need of belonging can’t be satisfied unless we take an uncalculated risk.

Our president seems more worried about saving the Dow Jones Industrial average rather than lives. A Lt. Gov. of a state that shall be named – Texas – says the patriotic action to take is for older people to just die to keep the world as it is unchanged for the younger generation.

They are “half a world away.”

The richest, most advanced country in the industrialized world cannot produce enough resources to handle this epidemic because the battle over saving lives has taken a back seat to saving financial bottom lines.

Our priorities are “half a world away.”

Almost 30 years ago, R.E.M. released Out of Time. I was a junior in college here in North Carolina transplanted from right outside of Athens, GA. Listening to R.E.M. was a way to keep from being “half a world away” from home, not that I was overwhelmingly homesick, but I wanted to stay connected and always have that possibility of freely traveling home. Now I am confined in my house that literally is two miles from that very dorm room where I first listened to the song “Half a World Away.”

Probably like many other people, I thought of the song describing a couple breaking up due to distance and having grown apart. Now as I listen to it, a whole new meaning takes shape. Great art has a way of molding its meaning around reality, even when that reality changes over 30 years of life experiences.

Instead of focusing on the “saddest dusk I’ve ever seen,” I am now drawn to the “miracle” and possibility of what can transpire from this prolonged event: reprioritizing our country’s needs, learning to help others more, expanded healthcare coverage, a new president, and a congress that tries to empathize with people.

“My hands” will get more “tired.” I may have “too much to drink.” I will find myself in a “lonely deep sit hollow” feeling like I may have to “go it alone.”

But…I can “hold it along and hold, hold.”

Being “half a world away” right now is painful, uncomfortable, irritating. But if it lets me keep those in this world that I never wanted to be away from in the first place, then I will “haul it along.”

And listen to good music, both through the speakers and through the open windows, especially at “dusk.” That’s when the blackbird sings its evening song.

It’s beautiful.

half world away

“Half A World Away”

This could be the saddest dusk I’ve ever seen
Turn to a miracle, high-alive
My mind is racing, as it always will
My hands tired, my heart aches
I’m half a world away here
And I had sworn to go it alone, hold it along
And haul it along and hold it
Go it alone ‘n hold it along
Hold

Oh, this lonely deeps and holy way
Half a world, half a world away
My shoes are gone, my life spent
I’ve had too much to drink
I didn’t think, I didn’t think of you
I guess that’s all I needed
To go it alone and hold it along
And haul it along and hold it
Blackbirds, backwards, forwards and fall
Hold

Oh, this lonely world is wasted
Pathetic eyes, high-alive
Blind eye that turns to see
The storm it came up strong
It shook the trees and blew away our fear
I couldn’t leave it here
To go it alone, hold it along
Haul it along and hold it
Go it alone hold it along
Hold

Go it alone and hold it along
Haul it along ‘n hold it
Blackbirds, backwards, forwards and fall
Hold

Oh, this could be the saddest dusk I’ve ever seen
Turn to a miracle, high-alive
My mind is racing, as it always will
My hands tired, my heart aches
I’m half a world away to go

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