Please Tell Me Who I Am: The Genius of Supertramp
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." --Dr. Seuss
"The most damaging phrase in the language is: 'It's always been done that way.'" --Grace Hopper
The title of this article is taken from the chorus of the song entitled, “The Logical Song” by Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson of the rock group Supertramp. It was one of those songs that hit me like a ton of bricks.
Here is a song that clearly questions conformity. Why can’t we be ourselves? Why do we have to follow the status quo? Are we afraid of being ridiculed?
“The Logical Song” also ventures down the philosophical and spiritual road. “What have we learned?” “Who am I?” These are questions that every conscious being will have to make someday in his or her life journey.
The first verse begins with Roger Hodgson describing, in an autobiographic fashion, what it is like to be a child:
“When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
a miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily,
joyfully, playfully watching me.”
Then something happens to this magic. We are forced to grow up. We forget about the simplicity of childhood. Instead, we complicate our life and become slaves to the system. Let’s continue with the first verse:
“But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible,
logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
clinical, intellectual, cynical.”
Of course, it makes sense to teach responsibilities to a child; however, we should not kill the creativity and imagination of the child. In fact, Einstein said that “imagination is more important than knowledge.” However, most individuals that reach adolescence seem to have abandoned their imagination. “Just tell me what to say.”
And if we do reach a point of being cynical, I think this is clear sign that we are not happy with life. Perhaps, there is a part of us that wants to experience the freedom of being a kid.
My favorite part of the song is the chorus. It asks the really deep questions about life. We are no longer biological machines that can be conformed until we drop. Instead, we are deep philosophical spiritual beings that want answers to our questions. Now, let’s take a look at the chorus:
“There are times when all the world’s asleep,
the questions run too deep
for such a simple man.
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
but please tell me who I am.”
In this chorus, I see a person finally waking up. He is now consciously aware of his responsibility in life. You can clearly see that in the line: “Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned.” It is very important for this person to grow in life. It doesn’t make sense to keep making the same mistakes over and over again. What can we learn from history?
The last line in the song, “I know it sounds absurd but please tell me who I am” is the ultimate spiritual question. We all want to know our place in this world. This gives our life purpose and meaning. Without it, we are like a rudderless boat that wanders the world haphazardly.
The second verse of the song takes a look at what happens if you do not conform. Let’s see what it says:
“Now watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical,
liberal, fanatical, criminal.
Won’t you sign up your name, we’d like to feel you’re
acceptable, respectable, presentable, a vegetable!”
It seems that if you do not conform you will be ridiculed. You will be called every bad name under the sun. And since most people want to fit in, they will most likely succumb to the conformity.
This is a shame, because real change cannot happen if we keep following the crowd. If it is something that is against our own ethical code, we should not follow it. We have to be true to ourselves.
Listen to the wisdom of your soul.