Song Flashback: “Do You Realize??”/ The Flaming Lips
It was the summertime. The sun was bidding adieu at Mountain Park, creating the perfect scene for the Flaming Lips to play their majestic, cosmic, starry eyed, twinkling songs to the masses. The air was ethereal, cool, and inviting. A hill draped over the venue, acting like a silent guardian for the night’s events. Accompanying me was my older brother. I thought he was so generous gifting me two tickets for my birthday and telling me to bring whomever I wanted, but of course that extra ticket was for him; he just didn’t want to tell me at the time.
For what seemed like hours of waiting (it was more like a mere 30 minutes) the band finally came on stage accompanied by an array of colorful characters: psychedelic dancers, aliens, bunnies, and a multitude of graffiti gun toting Santas. The bandleader was our shepherd, guiding into the weird and surreal. Song after song the band literally transformed the venue into a celebration of life. Confetti and balloons filled the air and thousands of unabashed awestruck smiles faced the stage. Then suddenly everything changed. Counting to 3, the lead singer started to sing the most positive song about death that I ever heard:
“Do You Realize, that everyone you know someday will die
And instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn’t go down
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round”
What was this sound? What were these words? Sad, yet hopeful. Whimsical, yet epic. Morbid, but oddly optimistic. Listening to it was like a soothing remedy that drew me into a tranquil state of mind. During this song a carousel of thoughts and figures paraded around my head: my recently deceased grandmother, the notion of growing up, and the unrequited affection of a girl. None of it got me down though. The atmosphere, music, and the countless smiles made it seem like everything would be all right. Looking around I even saw people crying – not tears of sadness, but tears of happiness, joy, and life. When the show ended I stood still in a state of stupor for a good ten minutes and tried to recover from the ass kicking that my soul just received until my brother snapped me out of it. We walked for a good fifteen minutes silent, both of us still processing the concert until he quietly murmured “damn that was a great concert” as if it accidentally slipped from his mind and out though his mouth. I couldn’t believe what I experienced. I was sober, but I felt like I was high on something. Was this all real or am I about to wake up from a cruel dream too good to be true? I needed to remember this event.
Maneuvering through the mazes of people to the merchandise stand, my eyes scanned the rack of items for something worthwhile. There she was in all of her red tiny wonder: a small red pin with the phrase “Do You Realize??” labeled on it. Love at first sight does exist! Gazing upon its metallic beauty it seemed like the perfect way to preserve the concert. For the next five years the pin always traveled with me, switching from jacket to jacket. It wasn’t any ordinary pin; the years molded it into a relic of a special night and it would always serve as a callback to one of my most valued memories when I looked upon it.
A lot of people will come up to me and ask about the pin. They usually say “Huh!? Do you realize? What the heck does that mean?” I don’t mind the inquiries; I actually welcome it and am quite happy when someone is curious because it gives me a chance to steer someone towards the song and its message. I usually tell them to simply google the phrase so the song pops up first, but sometimes I will briefly explain it. The thing is, I usually find something new to say about it. It seems like the pin takes on a new meaning as time goes by; the passing years adding more scrapes to the color, but also adding more depth to its message.
If someone were to ask me about it today I would tell him or her this: life goes by quickly, and you have to soak up as much of the beauty of it as you can. Now, the beauty of life can be found in anything from the joyful moments to the tragic ones. It all depends on how you look at it. “Do You Realize?” is a phrase about perspective; like I said, it is a responsibility. Once you learn this phrase, and you choose to take it to heart, you are held accountable to uphold the integrity of it; you must never give up looking for the beauty life offers us. Sometimes it can be very difficult, especially if you have found yourself dealing with hardship. However, just the fact that you make it out alive is beautiful in and of itself. To then thrive as a result of surviving is even more so. The universe gives us gifts to which we merely have to be open to receiving. It would be so easy to go through life without thinking too much of anything; not taking a stance on something about which you’re passionate, not taking a chance on love, not maintaining those family ties, and so on. This message, this realization, once you have learned it, becomes a responsibility. You are now responsible for carrying out the lesson you have learned; to let people know, especially the ones you love, how precious life is and how beautifully simple it all can be.
“Do You Realize, that you have the most beautiful face
Do You Realize, we’re floating in space
Do You Realize, that happiness makes you cry”
I got the chance to see the Flaming Lips in concert in high school; it became an opportunity I would receive a few times since then. Seeing them and hearing their songs live for the first time was a mind-blowing and life-changing experience for which I am eternally grateful. When they played “Do You Realize??” my heart burst open and it was filled with light and love and a sense of a shared experience with humanity. It was in that moment that I reheard the song all over again; I grasped its message even more fully. It was as if bandleader Wayne Coyne was singing just to me, but at the same time everyone was a little piece of me. We all understood what the world meant, and we took those pieces home with us.
P.S. Be sure to check out these albums (in their entirety!) by the Lips: Clouds Taste Metallic, The Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots