Thursday, February 03, 2005

I shall call the pebble, "Dare..."

At last night's Godspell rehearsal, we were learning the music for "By My Side." And someone asked what did this line mean: "I shall call the pebble 'dare.'" We didn't have time for a discussion as to the meaning, so I thought I'd take a moment to analyze the lyrics and open the comments up for discussion.

First, the lyrics, so you, dear reader, can form your own opinions:

Where are you going?
Where are you going?
Can you take me with you?
For my hand is cold
And needs warmth
Where are you going?

Far beyond where the horizon lies
Where the horizon lies
And the land sinks into mellow blueness
Oh please, take me with you
Let me skip the road with you

I can dare myself (I can dare myself)
I can dare myself (I can dare myself)
I'll put a pebble in my shoe
And watch me walk (watch me walk)
I can walk
I can walk!

I shall call the pebble Dare
I shall call the pebble Dare
We will talk about walking
Dare shall be carried
And when we both have had enough
I will take him from my shoe, singing
"Meet your new road!"

Then I'll take your hand
Finally glad
That you are here (you are here)
By my side



This is my interpretation. Well, if you haven't figured it out yet, this song is ultimately about walking the road with JC, not literally, but figuratively. In a sense, it's about the path of Christianity and being saved.

The author/singer of the song is talking to Jesus through out. In the first paragraph above, he asks Jesus if he can be a follower of his teaching. The imagery of "my hand is cold and needs warmth" refers to a soul being spiritually dead. Something in this person is missing and s/he needs help finding it. So, in essence, the singer is asking Jesus to warm him spiritually.

The phrasing of the second paragraph suggests that the singer is has never ventured beyond the lands that s/he is familiar with. It is obvious to the author that Jesus’ path leads to unfamiliar territory, yet s/he feels the need to walk with Jesus. In order to find the missing part of his/her life, the singer realizes they must venture to these unknown places. S/he asks Jesus if s/he can go with him to these lands. Symbolically, this represents what a person must do become a Christian – that is follow Christ’s teachings.

The third paragraph talks of daring oneself. Here’s my take on it. When someone dares you, they tempt you to do something. “I dare you to…” is simply another way to tempt someone into some good or bad action. Add to that this image: the schoolyard playground – home of the “double-dog dare.” What do I mean by that? Children are generally the instigator of the dare. This brings about the idea that, at least spiritually, the singer is a child or at the beginning of his/her Christian faith.

With that in mind, “I can dare myself…” I am tempted to walk with you, Jesus, for I am like a child. The singer is so child-like that to prove to Jesus that he wants to follow him he will dare himself to do it. “Look, Jesus, look at me,” seems to be the intent, like a child starving for attention. The author is certainly starving for Jesus’ attention.

The “pebble in my shoe” acts as a constant reminder that the walker is on a spiritual journey. Not that the journey (faith walk) has to be painful, but that it’s not easy to keep walking the path (or following JC’s teachings). “And watch me walk,” is another child-like attempt to garner Jesus’ attention. “Look at me, Jesus, I’m walking, I can do it” seems to be the thought. It’s like the child riding a bike for the first time. His/her father is holding on to the bike then lets go without the child realizing it. When the child sees dad has let go, they are a little scared but they also see they can do it. The person following Christ is also proving to him/herself that they can do it.

So, why call the pebble “dare?” At this point, the person has discovered the path of Christianity and is trying to lead a righteous life. But, temptation is always around to make us stray from the road. “Dare” represents those temptations.

“We will talk about walking” simply represents the singer listening to Jesus’ teachings. Jesus talks and teaches about “walking” the path and the singer talks with him learning the same.

While all this “talk about walking” is going on, “dare” is still being carried. In other words, the singer is trying to follow Christ’s teachings, but there still is the temptation to sin. The temptation is there no matter if the person sins. “And when we both have had enough/I will take him from my shoe” means that the singer has learned from Jesus not give into temptation. S/he can live his/her life righteously, as Jesus taught. “Singing, ‘Meet your new road!” shows that s/he is no longer tempted by evil and sin.

Salvation has been reached. And, now that salvation has been reached through Jesus, “I’ll take your hand finally glad that you are here by my side.” I think last line’s pretty self-explanatory. The singer has received the “warmth” that s/he was looking for with Christ. S/he can live a righteous life with JC there by his/her side.

I think I’m just now putting the “pebble in my shoe…”

13 comments:

New Years Resolution Blogger said...

I think you said this very well. I love Godspell and was listening to this song this morning and wondering about others' interpretations of it. I always found a little odd the idea of putting a pebble in your own shoe, but I guess the point is that deciding to follow God is NOT about the easy, always comfortable path.

And isn't it funny how you can write this years ago and today I read it and am delighted by your thoughts. The power of internet searches makes surprising connections.

ML said...

You know it's funny. This post is probably the one that is most googled. And, your comments reminded me to read this again and see where I'm at... Thank for that and for reading :)

Elisabeth Mikottis said...

Thank you for the explanation. I too, was listening to this song and wondered about the lyrics. I figured they meant something along those lines, but wanted to know what other people thought. So, thanks again!

(I found this through Google as well, the first result!)

Kerri said...

I,too was wondering about the meaning of this song so I googled it and came to your blog. I like your analysis of it and it gives a whole new level of meaning for this song. Thanks!

Laura Jane said...

I love this interpretation -- I too was listening to this beautiful song and decided to google its meaning. Thank you for this wonderful post!

Andrea said...

I do like the interpretation. The only thing I thought differently is when they take the pebble from their shoe. The Bible teaches that we will always face temptaion as long as we are on this Earth. I see taking the pebble from the shoe as leaving this earth to be with Jesus (hence the next verse). The pebble represents the hard path to follow Jesus on Earth and now they can finally take the pebble from their shoe to go home with Jesus.

Richard said...

As a pre-boomer, I saw Godspell on stage several times. My interpretation is different. I did not get hung up on JC or Christianity because they are both so emotionally and politically charged. Instead, more generally, I think the song is talking about the Path, the Tao, the middle way, the Flow. The pebble represents not only daring but the obstacles that we encounter. We need to dare ourselves to accept and overcome obstacles. Then we talk about walking: we are talking about the right way or the path that may contain obstacles but whose obstacles we can accept and overcome and therefore cease to be obstacles and cease to be significant. When we both have had enough: We can follow the right way through life without noticing the obstacles blocking us (we can easily deal with them) and at that time we can take the pebble from our shoe - since it has served its purpose. If we can go through life, put pebbles in our shoes, and not notice them, the Path becomes easy. Obstacles are no longer the emotional drains they used to be. They are just pebbles we step on and ignore.

Gretchen said...

I like the interpretation as well, but I don't think that it is good song writing to make lyrics so obscure that you need a big interpretation. When one sings this song, those listening basically don't know what you are talking about, and I don't care for that.

Kateri said...

I, for one, love songs with "obscure" meanings that leave the interpretation to the listener. This song has alot of meaning to me, which led me getting a tattoo of the line "Meet your new road." with a pebble at the end as a period, on my foot. It is a constant reminder that no matter what path it is I choose to walk down in life, I am strong enough to do so with pebbles in my shoes and obstacles in my way. Kudos to you ML...your interpretation is very close to that of mine!

ML said...

It is astounding to me that after 6 years since posting this, people still find and read it.

I guess there are a lot of hurt people out there that are looking for comfort. God bless you if you found your way to this post. Keep looking to God. He will help. He does love you.

Anonymous said...

Here's a link to what the writer of the song says it's about: http://www.stephenschwartz.com/vBulletin/showthread.php?354-Meaning-of-By-My-Side

Norien said...

I've "dared" myself to learn the meaning of this song again and again and never could come up with something feasible. Your interpretation is wonderful and from my point of view perfect. BUT, as a poet who shares his work with others the reader/listener has interpretations, just as on point and often surprising to me, to the point where I think, "Wow, I hope that lyric meant that 'cause it sounds really intelligent'". The beauty of love and art is that potential for paradox.

Peter Alexander Vaughn said...

Beautiful