On “Summer Highland Falls”

This song, by Billy Joel, is about perhaps the most fundamental truth about human existence that there is: that we are all stuck in our own perceptions. We can only see things through our own eyes, which are inherently different from any other person’s eyes, literally and figuratively. 2ed3b219699be47b79cb3781928030f298aa89a0

In the literal sense, think about sitting in a room with a crowd of people, and looking at the same object. Each person comes from a different angle and so each person, in essence, sees a different object. Now, apply that concept to an intangible idea, only the angle our vision is coming from is based on each of our unique experiences.

No two people have been doing the same exact things, seeing objects from the same angle for their whole lives, and so each person has his or her own perception.

Joel’s “Summer Highland Falls” tells of this isolating concept through an idea of two people fighting. They cannot see each other’s points of views, and so that is exactly what causes the disagreement as well as why it’s so hard to resolve it.

With the line, “For all our mutual experience, our separate conclusions are the same,” he suggests that each person is, at her core, the same, save for every single thing that shapes us (So not really the same at all).  But, we respond and formulate our persons in the same ways. We are all the same in that we are different.

The line that I like most is, “Now we are forced to recognize our inhumanity. Our reason coexists with our insanity.” It goes to show that all of our reasoning, all these things that we build our reality upon, is merely part of our contrived perception. We are all living in our own worlds, which is where insanity lies.

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2 thoughts on “On “Summer Highland Falls”

  1. This post reminds me of two things:
    1. Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception. Have you read that?
    2. Those lines that you quoted made me think of all that is wrong with the way the psychiatric field diagnoses people. They do so by comparing people’s behaviors with a bell curve of how the majority behaves. If a person deviates, it is grounds for diagnosing that person with a mental disorder. I have this theory that if everyone were to be psychoanalyzed in this way, we would all have some mental disorders pinned to our identities. How, then, could this be an effective diagnostic method? I’m sure Billy would agree.

    • Yeah! I think he actually wrote this song about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and his experience with that. I didn’t interpret it to be about that before I read that online, but I can see that too.
      How I interpreted it is that each individual has a different perception, but maybe he just intended it to be about having a different perception because of his diagnosis. Or maybe his idea is that everyone has a different perception and just because his is maybe more difficult to understand than others, doesn’t call for making him feel isolated by diagnosing him with that. Who knows his intent, but whatever it is, it provokes a lot of questions about perception.
      And no, I haven’t read that but it’s been on my list for a while, because I love Aldous and the premise sounds intriguing to me.

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