Even Sunlight Burns Sometimes

To get the full effect of the following analysis, I urge you to quickly go to your favorite music streaming platform. Search “Sunlight” by Hozier, and click play. Thank you. Now continue reading. 

“Sunlight” by Hozier is a part of his album Wasteland, Baby! The album is centered around complex paradoxes that convey the experience of both pleasure and sufferings simultaneously. Even in the title itself, “wasteland” and “baby!” are deeply contrasting words that are representative of the overall theme of the album. The various songs blend experiences of devastation and joy but the song “Sunlight” conveys the complexities of love specifically and how although it can both tournament and heal us, it is ultimately worth taking the risk to experience the joys it can entail. The speaker seems to be a person who is describing the conflicting feelings they have about loving another. Throughout the song Hozier consistently uses the pronoun “your”, suggesting that this song was intended for someone specific that he loves. Hozier mainly communicates the meaning of the song through metaphors, personification, and allusions that help to convey the experience he describes. 

In the very opening line, 

I would shun the light, share in evening’s cool and quiet

Hozier establishes the overarching metaphor in the song as light being a symbol of love. To “shun” the light is to turn away love. The evening, which Hozier describes as “cool and quiet”, is the world without sunlight, or love. The diction Hozier uses to describe the appeal of a “cool and quiet” evening represents the safety and comfort that one can depend on at night, or a life without love (and the pain that naturally comes with it).  He continues in the following lines to sing, 

But whose heart would not take flight 

Betray the moon as acolyte

Here, Hozier uses both personification and allusion to add to the idea that although the dark may be safer, humans naturally long for love, the same as sunlight, and will go to it whenever given the chance. The personified image of a heart taking flight is dramatic but serves to emphasize the strong force that is the urge to experience love. Additionally, the reference to the moon and acolyte in the same sentence alludes to the Greek myth of Artemis who was the goddess of chastity and the moon. Hozier refers to himself as an acolyte, acolytes were the hunters of Artemis and were forced to remain chaste and would be punished with death if otherwise. Here he claims he would go as far as to betray a Greek Goddess for love, emphasizing the addictive nature of love, despite its extreme costs. 

Hozier continues to use figurative language and rhetorical devices to build on this idea and sings, 

Oh, all these colors fade for you only

The Icarus to your certainty 

Again, Hozier utilizes both metaphor and allusion to better describe his experience with love. The idea of colors fading again represents sunlight and love. Colors naturally fade in the light, which is a seemingly depressing notion yet Hozier says his colors fade nonetheless for the person he loves, symbolizing a sort of sacrifice he is making to love and be loved. He continues to allude to the Greek myth of Icarus who used his wings to fly too close to the sun until they melted off.  Again, Hozier is encapsulating the paradox of love by drawing parallels to the Greek story that embodies the risks and consequences that becoming consumed with something pleasurable (such as love) can lead to.   

One line that I particularly like is, 

Death trap clad happily 

Hozier utilizes unique diction to further convey the paradox of love. Describing love as a death trap is an extreme comparison which he counters by adding the word “happily” suggesting that despite its dangers, it is not entirely bad. 

Finally, the ending line,

Sunlight, sunlight, sunlight, sunlight, sunlight 

There is clear repetition as the song fades out which suggests that the sun is setting and Hozier again is shunning love for the night. As a listener, we also forget about the love he describes as the song is ending (and naturally so, it leaves our minds) but this also supports the metaphor of how love is like sunlight, it sets and disappears as quickly as it came. Ultimately, the heart of the song is in both the lyrics and also the music. The music only becomes more sensational when you put in the context of the song’s meaning. I hope you listened.

Meursault is The Villain, not The Hero.

Meursault is a murderer. A murderer!! I feel like this fact got lost throughout the story and class discussion of the theme. But Meursault is literally a horrible person. Yes, he may have discovered how to “unlock the key to happiness”, but at what cost? I agree that there is much to be impressed about Meursault and the way he lives his life, however, let’s not take it too far. The line between existentialism and sociopathy is not that thick. What I mean by this is although Meursault is able to be content by the end of the novel, the philosophy he embraced to accomplish this ultimately was harmful to those around him. Meursault is incapable of acknowledging the feelings of others. The most obvious case is the Arab whom he shot not once but four separate times. And what about the religious man whom he brought to tears at the end of the novel? It is these instances that suggest Meusault embraced his philosophy a little too much. I think it is okay to live as Meursault does but with the condition that you are careful not to inflict your practices on other people as Meursault does. Camus writes the novel encouraging sympathy for Meursault from the readers as it is beyond Meursault’s ability to act any different. Also because the story is told from Meursault’s perspective, we are given more insight into his thought process and ultimately made to feel as if we understand him more. But if we did not have all this insight, the simple circumstances surrounding the murder would lead most to conclude Meursault is just plain evil. Although I fell victim to what Camus tried to do as I did feel sympathetic towards Meursault, after much reflection I have concluded he is in fact a murderer and did deserve the death he got…unpopular opinion?

The Ethics in Escape from Spiderhead

The first time I read Escape From Spiderhead, I was taken aback at how much had happened in such a short story. Jeff goes from being obsessively in love with not just one but two different people, to feeling an indescribable level of pain that drives him to kill himself. There are many different thought provoking aspects of the story but the one I found most interesting was the drugs that Abensti used, and the way he justified using them. When administering the “love drug” that causes Jeff to love both Heather and Rachel, Abnesti says

”Can we stop the war? We can sure as heck slow it down! Suddenly the soldiers on both sides start fucking. Or, at low dosage, feeling super-fond. Or say we have two rival dictators in a death grudge”.

This poses a seriously interesting hypothetical, would it be ethical to use drugs in this way if they existed? If a love drug seriously had the potential to stop wars, genocides, and hateful violence, shouldn’t we use it? I would say yes, but then we must also consider where the lines are drawn. Would it be ethical to secretly put some of the drug in my significant other’s coffee while they’re not looking because I’m scared they’re losing interest? What if it’s to keep two parents together to raise their child? And even if we are able to look past the various scenarios that test the morality of the use of these drugs, there is always the question of their validity. If Jeff and Rachel were somehow able to escape Spiderhead and begin a life together, would it be real? Does he actually love her and she, him? If he does, then is love just a bunch of emotions in our brains that are stopped as quickly as they started? Or is it more than that? In our reality, love and affection are deeply intimate emotions for most people. Falling in love with someone occurs (usually) over the course of much time getting to know them. Is this type of love more valid than the one Abnesti administered to Jeff? It would seem so but if you were able to ask Jeff when he was on the drug I’m sure he’d strongly disagree. Anyways, I don’t have any answers…just some things to think about!

Social Movements and Mutual Recognition

One of the most obvious examples of Benjamin’s theory in action is social movements, particularly Black Lives Matter. After learning about her theory, I find this movement to be a near-perfect example of attempting to achieve mutual recognition. The Black Lives Matter movement is a counter to the systemic inequalities that have given way to white dominance and severe discrimination against black and brown people. The movement (as it says) is dedicated to achieving a universal recognition of Black lives and their importance, in the same way, that white lives have long been recognized as important and worthy of recognition and protection. Now knowing about Benjamin’s theory, I find it to be the core principle of most social movements that fight to achieve rights and acknowledgment of different groups of people. Movements are centered around organization, they’re people gathering in the streets to protest, boycotting institutions, and doing what they can to draw attention to themselves, to be recognized the same as those in power. Because the dominant majority (white men) has long been recognized, the power of achieving mutual recognition lies in the movements of those who have yet to be fully recognized in their worth, their rights, and their power. Social movements that attempt to achieve equal rights and equity are key to advancing democracies and building a better society. Now that I understand Benjamin’s theory on mutual recognition, I truly believe that it is the key to social movements and thus a better world. I think that perceiving these movements as attempting to achieve mutual recognition, highlights their importance in a broader sense of the world. Many people turn away from movements because of their political associations (for example Black Lives Matter is widely recognized as a democrat movement). Further, I believe that by explaining to others that the core principle of social movements is simply mutual recognition, we can give everyone a reason to see their importance, ultimately making them moral causes rather than political ones.