No More Turning Away?
From the beginning of time people have committed evil acts, done horrendous things, and hurt each other in numerous ways. But recently it seems as if the world has gotten worse. As the old saying goes, we seem to be “going to hell in a handbasket.” Within the past several years, students have been shot for their beliefs in Columbine, thousands have died in terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, poverty and homeless numbers have drastically risen, and wars are breaking out all over the world. We must ask ourselves, “What are we doing to assist and prevent these things and the millions of other cases like them from happening?” In their song “On The Turning Away,” Pink Floyd attempts to address this question and to imagine what life would be like if we tried to do something about the heinous acts being committed in our world today.
The song opens with a picture of “pale and downtrodden” people who are being ignored when they try to raise their voices to protest what is happening to them. “On the turning away from the pale and downtrodden, and the words they say which we don’t understand.” The singer pleads with the people of the world to not “accept that what’s happening is just a case of others’ suffering.” The suffering that goes on in the world is not something that we should ignore. Many avenues of relief exist if we will just make the effort to find out where they are and how to get them. Be it donations of money or time, prayers, or actual hands-on help, if we don’t do it, then we will be ‘joining in the turning away.”
Pink Floyd begins the second verse by saying that “it’s a sin that somehow light is changing to shadow.” In the Bible, Jesus states that “he who does unto the least of these does unto me.” For a Christian person, this is not only a statement, but a reprimand if we do not try to do something about what is going on. The sin is “casting it shroud over all we have known.” A shroud is a sheet that is wrapped around a corpse in order to hide or conceal it. The mention of a shroud symbolizes the way we as humans try to put a veil over our eyes so that we don’t feel like we are ignoring the evil; we are just blind to it and thus ignorant of it. And if we do this, we will be “unaware how the ranks have grown.” The blindness of the world is what has allowed evil to spread and get bigger, like a leak in a bathtub, until it is overflowing the whole world. And, according to the song, if we allow this to happen, we “will find that we’re all alone in the dream of the proud.”
Despite cynicism and darkness during the beginning of the song, the final two verses end on a more uplifting and positive note: “On the wings of the night, as the daytime is stirring, and the speechless unite in a silent accord.” Slowly we are becoming aware of what is going on…the media coverage of the Columbine shooting and 9/11 took care of that. Major television programs raise attention to issues. We are being given the opportunity to not hide our heads in the sand and ignore what happens daily around us. If we come together we will be “using words you will find are strange” such as “help,” “hope,” and “future.” “Mesmerized as they light the flame.” It’s funny how one little candle can dispel the blackness in a completely dark room, isn’t it? If ten thousand candles burn in that dark room, then it isn’t dark anymore. At last the world can “feel the new wind of change on the wings of the night.”
In conclusion, if we take into consideration the assets that are available to us—money, technology, knowledge, power—then we will no longer be able to turn away. Turning towards and doing something about all of the horrible things going on around us will mean that there will be “no more turning away from the weak and the weary.” If we allow ourselves to light that little flame that is to mesmerize us, there will be “no more turning away from the coldness inside.” The flame that we light will melt that coldness and we will finally have “just a world that we all must share.” Pink Floyd tells us once again that “it’s not enough just to stand and stare.” We can’t ignore it, we can’t wish it away, and we can’t keep the shroud over our eyes to blind us from the fact that, yes, the world is getting worse. So we must ask ourselves…”is it only a dream that there’ll be no more turning away?”