Then one day I heard a phrase I’d heard many times before: “And it breaks her heart to think her love is only/Given to a man with hands as cold as ice.”
And I understood something; I saw the situation from another point of view. It may have helped that my hands were ice-cold at the time.
In high school, I’d seen things from the side of the girl in the song; the poor thing was stuck with an old man. Suddenly, my point of view shifted, and in doing so, I understood the complex message of the lyrics. The song is not an apologetic for adultery. It is a mirror held up for the girl. It is a Dorian Grey-style portrait. It is a frank and forthright description.
In the song, the husband’s age gives him enough understanding of the world to know what his wife is doing. Her youth allows her to have the illusion that she might be fooling someone. If she is, it is only herself. His knowledge is a curse; her ignorance is a balm.
The genius of poetry tells this complex story in a few words, and the story makes us think. Knowing the truth doesn’t necessarily make us happy. Often the truth is used like a dangerous chemical. It is brought out at certain points by someone with heavy gloves and tongs, but the rest of the time it is kept locked away where light can’t touch it.
We live in a world where we worship image, and not just the graven kind. By shining light toward what we want seen and away from what we wish to be invisible, we can perform magical transformations. You can fool 90 percent of the people 90 percent of the time if you’re good at it. But if you are going to play the image game make sure you aren’t part of the 90 percent you are fooling. As that guy Shakespeare (I think he played for the Eagles at one time) said it: “To thine own self be true.