‘A fire, a fire, you can only take what you can carry’

March 25, 2010


"A fire, a fire you can only take what you can carry."


Snow Patrol – If there’s a rocket tie me to it


Two weeks later like a surplus reprieve
I found a hair the length of yours on my sleeve
I wound it round and round my finger so tight
It turned purple and a pulse formed inside  

And I knew the beat ’cause it matched your own beat
I still remember it from our chest to chest and feet to feet
The easy silence then was a sweet relief to this hush
Of ovens, aeroplanes and of distant car horns  

A fire a fire, you can only take what you can carry
A pulse your pulse, it’s the only thing I can remember
I break you don’t, I was always set to self-destruct though
The fire the fire, it cracks and barks like primal music  

I said I knew the beat ’cause it matched your own beat
It’s become my engine my own source of heat
The sea between us only amplifies the sound waves
Every hum and echo and crash paints my cave  

A fire a fire, you can only take what you can carry
A pulse your pulse, it’s the only thing I can remember
I break you don’t, I was always set to self-destruct though
The fire the fire, it cracks and barks like primal music  

A fire a fire, you can only take what you can carry
A pulse your pulse, it’s the only thing I can remember
I break you don’t, I was always set to self-destruct though
The fire the fire, it cracks and barks like primal music 

From the album: A Hundred Million Suns.  Songwriters: Connolly, Nathan; Lightbody, Gary; Quinn, Jonathan; Simpson, Tom; Wilson, Paul 

For a link to the song video on YouTube click below or paste it into your web-browser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtbbFFmfQVs 




Reflections: – If there’s a rocket tie me to it 

This song by Snow Patrol is one of many they have written and performed that really moves me. 

Here is a song that breathes poetry – fueled by imagery of  loss, primal fire, memory and the echo of the living pulse of a now distant, once close, loved one. 

Here is music that  both releases painful memories and lifts the human spirit beyond that pain. 

Here are words that describe something common place and experienced by  many – the loss of a loved one, the breakdown of a relationship. Yet the song writers create a unique and original experience of soul-penetrating beauty. The combination of ethereal transcendent-like music with a profoundly intense lyrical awareness to the actual physical details of a person’s absence.  The poet re-members (literally re – puts together like the members of a body) the presence of a loved one through the physical evidence of a hair on his sleeve, a recall of a beating heart and their bodies touching ‘head to head, feet to feet’.   

For me I only started listening to this song December 09 and January 2010 while resurfacing from a two-year period of great personal loss and pain after my former-wife left me. The song touched me at different levels. In one way it just spoke of the beauty and transcendence of life and how it can be captured by talented artists in the secular realm. It reminded me that contemporary artistic beauty is out there. Beyond the church, beyond the tired old repetition of a few religious favourites in worship services, a poet and a band of musicians can write and create something so ethereal that one feels caught up even for a few minutes into the glory of something bigger than the numbing, routine, status quo existence.  It seems that sometimes only an artist (or artists) care enough about the details of life to help heal one’s broken heart. Only the artist with her/his non-linear, pre-rational talents can gently break open the encrusted and infected wounds of our souls. I love the references to ‘fire’ – ‘cracking’ and burning ‘like primal music’. Too much of our existences are channelled into the  soul-less, confines of the tram lines of narrow consumerist reason. Where is the fire? The breath? The pulse? The transient glory of vibrating life, which continues to breath and pulsate, shine and reflect extravagantly and recklessly in exponential spirals of beauty. Yet, so often we live in a society that presses us to carry on regardless of the world’s abundance. We are trammelled into huge structures that attempt to  organise life into rigid categories of good and bad, economical/uneconomical, black and white, right and wrong, desirable/undesirable, valuable/without valuable. It is as Walter Brueggemann writes a culture of scarcity. As a Christian I often feel the church is a willing conspirator in this pursuit to rationalise the world only by different this time religious categories. This song reminds of a greater beauty. Perhaps, it is only the artist who comes with extravagance in tension with discipline who can create the conditions that enable us  to cleanse, mop up and disinfect the  distressed flesh torn by emotional trauma. 

This song, If there’s a rocket tie me to it, helped me recall how much I had loved my ex-wife. It reminded me of my own propensity to ‘self-destruction’ and the fact that ,as much as my ego would like to cast all the blame on her for the breakdown of the relationship, I know that I too was to blame. For whatever reasons or with whatever excuses I might bring forward, I too was responsible for the loss of such a unique and irreplaceable beauty.



At another level the song spoke to me of the ultimate transience of life. We are all at one time or another confronted by the fact that in life there is a fire burning that will burn away all our attempts to create a world and haven for ourselves. There is a principle of destruction or death. This fire, this death, takes away all our dearest possessions, but is not meant to harm us, I believe. Rather, the destructive force of the fire is intended to liberate us from our attachments to people, experiences and things. In the song, Snow Patrol, use the image of a fire in a building and a person escaping only with what they can grasp and carry in their hands. They sing: 

“A fire, a fire, you can only take what you can carry.” 

This imagery I believe is deeply spiritual (even religious). It speaks of what monks often described as ‘purgation’ –  not purgatory after death – but a refining of the soul through the destruction and transformation  of fire in this life. I really like that. It rings so true to me, both in the light of religious teachings Buddhist, Biblical and Islamic as well as in the harshness of life experiences. 

In one sense, we may only escape a literal fire in a building with a few precious items in our hands. What would those items be?’ – I wonder, might be a healthy and sobering question to ask ourselves from time to time. In terms of ultimate questions we may not even be able to take with us what we can carry. As the old English burial service declares: 

‘earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ 

Our lives can be viewed as a kind of alchemical journey from the dust of the earth, transformed into the almost ‘divine’, living exultation of human life,  back eventually to ashes and dust in the ground. Is it not true that in fact we cannot even take through this process of transformation even the contents of the palms of our hands? 

‘The fire, the fire cracks and burns like primal music.’

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