Welcome to the Machine by Pink Floyd
How much are our dreams and aspirations a form of rebellion and an assertion of independence and how much are they manipulated by society? Can we ever really be original and authentic? These are questions raised in the second song on Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, the dark and moody sounding Welcome to the Machine.
For me, this whole topic is critical to our wellbeing. For us to ‘be well’, I think we need to be the most authentic version of ourselves possible. I think this because it seems to me we feel our life is most meaningful, relaxed, purposeful and even happy (although not without challenge) when we are in the flow of just feeling like everything we do is an extension of who we are. This leads us to a question: How do we get to this state of authenticity? This song helps us to be aware of some of the challenges of the journey. The first verse sets the scene:
You’ve been in the pipeline, filling in time. Provided with toys … You brought a guitar to punish your ma.
Being ourselves is something, I believe, we can choose to grow into, rather than a state we automatically assume. Waters’ words here speak of how our activities and possessions can often help us to fill time, but to no real purpose or meaning. Even our acts of rebellion can often be pretty pathetic. The theme continues:
What did you dream? It’s alright we told you what to dream. You dreamed of a big star … played a mean guitar … ate in the Steak Bar … drive in his Jaguar. So welcome to the machine.
When talking about the album, the song’s writer, Roger Waters, spoke of how his dream of being a musician was being lost to his feeling of being part of a bigger money making machine, the music industry. These lyrics reflect something of that idea, the dream of being a musician sounds attractive, an opportunity to explore your own creativity. But often, dreams end up being outplayed in the more sanitised realism of the world around us. Here success is not so much about the creative exploration of ideas as it is being productive and gaining the recognised status symbols of a good life (good dining and a nice car). His ideals have been taken over by the needs of the machine.
But how about us and our own quest for wellbeing through authenticity? I think that what we take from this song is a warning not to allow our dreams and ambitions to be converted into what might be deemed success by others. I see this too in my own life in that since being self-employed I’ve earned less but enjoyed life more. In terms of success measurements that are materialistic, I might be considered less successful, yet I am happier, more relaxed and have a greater sense of meaning. However, it’s something I constantly need to keep in check, as the temptation to take on projects just to earn money is a constant challenge.
So, for me, this is a song which acts as a reminder. To misuse a contemporary phrase, a reminder to; stay alert, control the social pressure to conform, and by doing so, stay alive. Really alive.
Need to recover your authenticity? Why not consider booking an appointment with the author, Dr Dave Wood?