Richer Than A King, He Put A Bullet Through His Brain
These words seem to strike a nerve among men:
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.…
And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
These are a few lines from “Richard Corey” by Edwin Arlington Robinson. The poem has inspired music by Simon & Garfunkel, Paul McCartney & Wings, Them, Van Morrison, Cuby + Blizzards, The Chicago Loop, 3Ds, Ken Boothe, John Duke, American Oi, Youngblood, and The Menzingers. It also inspired a play by A. R. Gurney and a poem by American humorist Garrison Keillor.
Rich musician sees he has little of worth
I remembered that poem one day as I listened to Mike Posner’s, “I took a pill in Ibiza.” The song tells of a rich and famous musician who had it all, and then realized that he didn’t really have much of anything.
A few lines:
I drive a sports car just to prove
I’m a real big baller
Cause I made a million dollars
But you don’t wanna be high like me
Never really knowing why like me
You don’t ever wanna step off that roller coaster
And be all alone
An artist from another generation made a similar realization. “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty is slow and uneventful, but the lyrics are meaningful. I played saxophone in middle school but never played this song even though I really wanted to learn it. It’s honest about how depression and hopelessness can affect anyone:
This city desert makes you feel so cold
It’s got so many people but it’s got no soul…
Another year and then you’d be happy
Just one more year and then you’d be happy
But you’re cryin’ you’re cryin’ now
He’s gonna give up the booze and the one night stands
And then he’ll settle down, it’s a quiet little town
And forget about everything
But you know he’ll always keep movin’
The song expresses the human contradiction of trying to be optimistic, or even fooling yourself that it will be better, yet feeling helpless and hopeless.
“You know he’s never gonna stop movin’”
The words reflect “Ibiza”:
And I can’t keep a girl, no
‘Cause as soon as the sun comes up
I cut ’em all loose
And work’s my excuse
But the truth is
I can’t open up
Guys try to rack up points by bedding girls. And sure, they get some status. But are they happier?
Most guys say they are happier in relationships.
So maybe it just seems like guys who are getting girls are “living the life.”
This masculine facade
It makes me think of this masculine facade. Guys outwardly show a confident, even cocky “man face.” But it’s rooted perhaps in insecurity.
You look successful and fulfilled. But maybe that face is more like compensation for not being happy.
Because really you are chasing after meaningless nightlife happiness which doesn’t have soul or meaning. It’s superficial. Vacuous.
What’s really important?
It seems like human nature to be competitive — at least I am.
Or maybe our culture just emphasizes hierarchy and being on “top,” glamorizing fortune and status — especially for men.
So you join the ego-centered competition, “proving yourself” by getting hot girls and being a high status “baller” man.
But things aren’t always what they seem.
Maybe what’s really important are the small things — or things that can seem small but which are actually really significant: family, friends and partnership.
It’s really the simple, meaningful things, that are less about ego — yourself — and more about what’s beyond just “you.”
It’s easy to lose sight of such things, and think the grass is greener on the other side, leaving us envying others who only seem to be living the highlife.
By one of my readers, “Bob.”