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Monday, January 30, 2006

BEING ALIVE

In college, I took an independent studies class in which one of my favorite professors and I discussed the work of Stephen Sondheim. It was a 20-something page paper analyzing the choices and themes in 3 of Sondheim's musicals (my favorites): Company (1970), Passion (1994) and (I believe) A Little Night Music (1973). Without getting into exhaustive detail (and because I don't have my paper on hand to reference), one of the songs that my professor and I discussed was Being Alive from Company. In order to really understand the show & the song, one needs to know what it's about (and that is a whole post & conversation in and of itself). Company provides an honest, witty, sophisticated look at relationships from the point of view of Robert, who contemplates his single-life compared to that of his various married friends. He weighs the pros & cons of being alone to that of his friends and in the end begins to understand what he wants from his own life which he sings about in Being Alive.

While I have another blog that only houses lyrics that have either meant something to me or I've wanted people to discover, I'm posting the Being Alive lyrics here. With Valentine's Day coming up, I've had many conversations these days with friends about what they want and fear from life. I think more than a few people can relate...there was a point in my life not too long ago when this song was more than just a set of lyrics to me.

* * *

BEING ALIVE
~Sondheim

Someone to need you too much,
Someone to know you too well,
Someone to pull you up short
And put you through hell.

Someone you have to let in,
Someone whose feelings you spare,
Someone who, like it or not,
Will want you to share
A little, a lot.

Someone to crowd you with love,
Someone to force you to care,
Someone to make you come through,
Who'll always be there,
As frightened as you
Of being alive,
Being alive,
Being alive,
Being alive.

Somebody, hold me too close,
Somebody, hurt me too deep,
Somebody, sit in my chair
And ruin my sleep
And make me aware
Of being alive,
Being alive.

Somebody, need me too much,
Somebody, know me too well,
Somebody, pull me up short
And put me through hell
And give me support
For being alive,
Make me alive.

Make me confused,
Mock me with praise,
Let me be used,
Vary my days.
But alone is alone, not alive.

Somebody, crowd me with love,
Somebody, force me to care,
Somebody, make me come through,
I'll always be there,
As frightened as you,
To help us survive
Being alive,
Being alive,
Being alive!

2 comments:

Mitch Glaser said...

To me, the lyrics of this song present a challenge: Sondheim is asking each of us, do YOU want to be alive? It's a question each of us must answer.

It seems that Robert eventually decides that being forever single is not the ideal, since "alone is alone, not alive." I think he recognizes that being alone is the easier choice, but it doesn't challenge a person to strive for more and do better. If we retreat into our own little world and never share ourselves with others, we can never explore all the dimensions of "being alive." We are depriving ourselves.

But Robert is "as frightened as you," and he is as frightened as me and everyone I know. Again, being alone is the easier choice because it doesn't put oneself at risk. I struggle with the fact that I can be hurt if I open my heart to another person, as I've been hurt many times before. But Robert reminds me I am not alone in these thoughts.

You mention that you've had many conversations with people about what they want and fear from life. I wonder if you've observed that people are a lot clearer on what they fear from life than what they want from life. Fear seems to guide life and inhibit people from taking the biggest risk of all: deciding what it is you want from life, and going out and getting it.

Why is it that the human condition makes it easier to be afraid rather than hopeful, to be reactive rather than proactive, and to be doubtful rather than confident? It seems counter-intuitive that we fight the very idea of "being alive" out of a sense of self-preservation. If we don't challenge ourselves to truly be alive, what are we protecting ourselves from?

I think these lyrics are really thought-provoking. Am I up for the challenge of "being alive," truly opening my heart and mind without fear? Am I ready to make what I want from life more important than what I fear from life? Do I agree with Robert that "alone is alone, not alive," and that the only way for me to feel alive is to open my heart to another person? -- I'm hopeful I can eventually answer these questions, but I realize I have a lot more work to do.

Bonnie Marshall said...

I just came from the bedside of a dying friend and was googling 'Being Alive + lyrics' when I came across your post. I wanted to include the lyrics in an email to a friend about what it was I was looking for out of life, out of a relationship. Indeed, Sondheim and the character of Robert present a life of sacrifice and struggle, but also one of great rewards including the awareness of life. Certainly, when pairing with someone there are those risks and, I for one, am frightened of taking them, but perhaps even more frightened of never having the chance.

As Mitch says, I don't know why we as humans gravitate to fear and doubt over love and hope. For me, it is the years of experience of love and heartbreak that has made me more cautious. The cuts and bruises take longer to heal now. But, I'd love the opportunity , with the right person, to fall again. I welcome someone to sit in my chair and ruin my sleep.

Bonnie Marshall
Minneapolis, Minnesota
cheetah@mn.rr.com

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