good monsters - jars of clay

Looking around the internet, there isn't much discussion of what this song is about in detail - and I find it quite intriguing, so I thought I might try to promote some discussion on the topic. I'll post the lyrics, then my thoughts about them. Feel free to follow up with thoughts of your own.

All the good monsters open their eyes,
To see the wasteland where the home fires rise,
And the people shouting why, why, why...

Do you know what you are?
Do you know what you are?

All of the giants wake from their sleep,
And roll outside of safety's keep,
And the pain makes them feel so alive

Do you know what you are?
Do you know what you are?

And we are bored of all the things we know

Do you know what you are?
Do you know what you are?

Not all monsters are bad, but the ones who are good
Never do what they could, never do what they could

All the good monsters rattle their chains,
And dance around the open flames,
And they make a lot of empty noise.

While all of the bright eyes turn away,
As if there wasn't anything to say,
About the justice and the mystery.

Do you know what you are?
Do you know what you are?

And we are bored of all the things we know
And we are forms of everything we love, we love.

If good won't show it's ugly face,
Evil won't you take your place
Nothing ever changes,
Nothing ever changes...
By itself.


We are bored of all the things we know
Do you know what you are?
'Cause we are, we are so in love with ourselves
And we are forms of all the things we love.

Let's start with the phrase "Not all monsters are bad, but the ones who are good never do what they could, never do what they could", because I think the term "good monsters" is pretty pivotal to the meaning of the song.

It seems like in this song, they are referring to good monsters as people who have the potential to act and to do something, to change things - but they either have their eyes closed and therefore have no idea what's going on, or they choose to do nothing productive. I think it also is an allusion to the fact that we all have the potential for great good and great harm inside us.

The first stanza seems to be referring to people (good monsters) opening their eyes and realizing there is chaos going on around them.

The second seems to be referring to those of them who choose to act and do something about that chaos, to move outside of their own safety and comfort, and as a result, they experience pain (because when you move outside of your comfort, when you take risks, when you become involved in others' lives, you do experience pain). This may also be alluding to people who happen to be put outside their comfort zone by circumstances.

And then the question - do you realize in what ways you are one of those people who is causing harm by your ignorance or inaction?

I'm not exactly sure what they mean by the statement "And we are bored of all the things we know" - but here's my guess... we have a tendency to intellectualize everything, to the point that it all becomes theoretical... and all this theorizing numbs us into boredom and inaction. It requires something at the heart level to push us into action.

I think the rattling chains bit is about us putting on a big show and making a lot of noise so that people notice us, yet we aren't really actually doing anything useful, we're just trying to appear so to appease our consciences. (I.E. a lot of celebrity charity, people just throwing money at things that don't at all take into account the needs of the people they are supposed to be helping, people who feel that the only thing anyone needs is for their system of belief to be broken down and replaced by the one they espouse)

Those with bright eyes being those who are the victims of abuse, genocide, hunger, disease, poverty (could be someone in Africa, could be your neighbor) - who could use the time and resources we could give if we actually cared to do so - who realize that we are just making useless noise, and turn away defeated because those who put on a show of hope and justice really had nothing to say about it.

"And we are forms of everything we love" - this one I think is pointing at the fact that there is a lot of light and darkness in every person - that we have natural instinct to love both good and evil and we become what we love - so while on one hand, I might find myself very involved in helping the poor in my community, I might also find myself involved in harming a lot of people because of my addictions.

"If good won't show it's ugly face, evil won't you take your place..." - this stanza I'm not exactly sure about... my best guess is that since nothing changes by itself, it's a cry for evil to prompt some change in people, if good won't show it's ugly face... this is again a bit of the tension between the good and evil in us - saying that good has an ugly face... my best guess is that it's a hope that if we won't step in and change things on our own initiative, that evil would prove to be a catalyst for us to do so.

Please let me know if you have any other takes on any of this, I'm always interested in alternate interpretations - I certainly don't think mine is the only possible one. Cheers!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Mr. Computer Scientist,

    I like this album of JOC a lot and I like your interpretation. I was just thinking that the altered view of the Good monsters could be that they think that they are good because monster is something that's atrocious and supposed to be scary, so it's an oxymoron just like all the people who say they are good. Jesus was once directed as Good teacher but he responded with, "Who is good?" and rhetorically so, there is no good. And your interpretation about rattling the chains and all that society views as good, it's as useless as rattling chains, and being in chains is like being in slavery, but they are still getting noticed. The slavery that they are in is to sin. I don't know man- it's a great song, they are the most poetic band that I know, and I love them!

    Take care.