Most people grow up in the world of thought. Then, at some point between maybe 20 years old, and hopefully before we’re dead, we encounter the idea of either reducing our thinking, or at least becoming more aware of it. That act represents a spiritual homecoming of sorts.

By being more aware of our thinking, and by having our increased awareness change our habits, we then free up an enormous amount of brain power that was previously being dedicated to idle –and often damaging but unproductive– bouts of self-talk.

These debilitating thoughts generally take the form of regrets, guilt, worry, fear, anger, resentment, or any other form of thinking that places us at the center, where we are either the victim of nature, others, or ourselves. In these situations our assessment of ourselves and the world is that neither is ‘enough.’

My work has historically been about helping people find those thoughts, and about how to see through or past them. It’s important work that I will continue. But as I look to make changes to how I approach teaching peace of mind during a pandemic, one of the approaches will be to spend more time pointing out what we could be doing with our minds instead of ruminating.

The simple fact is, aware people notice far more about what is going on in the present moment. Unaware people don’t even notice the obvious. I have written before about an experiment I did, where I pulled out people’s headphones unexpectedly, and then asked them what they were listening to. None knew.

As I’d suspected, those people were not listening to music, they were only sound-tracking their thoughts. Even more extremely, I’ve taught people who sang songs in bands for many years without ever realizing –or even wondering— what the song was about!

Think about it: most songs only exists because some artist felt it was important to communicate a certain idea, and yet many of us put zero effort into trying to find the gift they sent us.

In the case of the Elton John song Rocketman, the song started as a gift from Bernie Taupin to his friend Sir Elton. That’s how they worked. Taupin would independently create lyrics, and Elton John would independently create the music for them.

As they have noted, the song was written based on a Ray Bradbury story. The story essentially described space ship captains of the future as being more like truck drivers. Far from glamorous they were just rarely home for their families.

Despite that very valid meaning, if we’re not lost in our own thoughts, and we have everything we know available to us in a clear head-space, then we might recall that, in a lot of really good art, there are often two things happening.

The first is that there is an engine to any song or story. For example, as I’ve noted before, in the film Die Hard, the engine is the robbery and hostage taking. But the film is really about John McClane coming to more openly love and respect his wife, which in turn overcomes his misogyny.

At the start of the film John McClane is there to drag his wife back to New York, and at the end he’s staying in LA, where her career is. That’s the heart of the story.

In listening to Rocketman (lyrics below), I can’t help but wonder; if the engine for the song is the space-race and truck-driving space ship captains, is it possible that its heart, that Taupin was writing to his friend about his drug addiction? He has talked about how difficult that was to manage at times.

If we replace ‘space’ with ‘being high,’ and being stoned as ‘being on Mars,’ and if the ‘rocket’ is cocaine or something similar, then the metaphors for the suffering of the ‘family’ back at home takes on a whole new meaning. A stoned parent is not really present for their children any more than a stoned friend is present for their friends.

The song and lyrics are below so you can decide for yourself if you can make that interpretation part of your reality. Maybe it was Taupin’s meaning, maybe not. But his reality is not ours. That said, we cannot even create our own version of the song’s reality unless we’re actually listening to it carefully. And the only way to listen so carefully is by ensuring that we’re not lost in ruminating thoughts about ourselves.

You can decide for yourself. But either way, the song definitely could be about drug addiction. And that potentially means that listening to it closely could act as a psychological mirror, that reflects the price of an addiction back to the listener. Then, rather than engaging in ruminations where the addict tells themselves similar things, the song itself could be the straw of awareness that breaks the back of someone’s unconscious addiction, by making its costs more tangible. But not if we’ve never fully heard it.

In living life, everyone wants ‘a sign’ of what to do. Well, artists make signs for a living. So as we seek greater consciousness, let us not try to just hear what notes they assembled, or what superficial story they told, and let’s listen for the idea that ties those notes together. Because then we’ll have found the heart of the art. And if we can do that, then even a song about addiction, or truck drivers in space, can become a thing of beauty.

She packed my bags last night pre-flight
Zero hour nine AM
And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then
I miss the earth so much I miss my wife
It’s lonely out in space
On such a timeless flight

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
‘Till touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I’m a rocket man 
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
‘Till touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I’m a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids
In fact it’s cold as hell
And there’s no one there to raise them if you did
And all this science I don’t understand
It’s just my job five days a week
A rocket man, a rocket man

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
‘Till touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I’m a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
‘Till touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I’m a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time

peace, s