O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
Of course, there are multiple interpretations, and Robert Burns used the lines to close with a rather trite maxim about avoiding pretension, but that’s not where I want to go with them at the moment. The fact is, we are all of us all too aware and concerned about how others see us.
If you accept Thoreau’s proposition; that most of us “lead lives of quiet desperation,” then the happy contentedness many of us display is simply a façade for others’ consumption. The fortunate few realize their dreams and find true love and happiness. As for the rest of us, we resign ourselves to our carefully constructed façade; the nearest we will ever come. “[This] resignation is confirmed desperation … [a] stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind.” We end up living our own façade, trading the ideal for good enough, filling in the colors in someone else’s paint-by-number dreams.
Ah the laughter of the lovers
As they run through the night
Leaving nothing for the others
But to choose off and fight
And tear at the world with all their might
While the ships bearing their dreams
Sail out of sight
I’m going to find myself a girl
Who can show me what laughter means
And we’ll fill in the missing colors
In each other’s paint-by-number dreams
And then we’ll put our dark glasses on
And we’ll make love until our strength is gone
And when the morning light comes streaming in
We’ll get up and do it again
Get it up again