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POST-LABOR DAY: “Cold To See Clear,” or ‘You’re More Than The Work You Do To Get By’

Fall has unofficially begun. We’re a day out from the holiday that originated as a celebration of labor movements. Workers and the unions that represented them fought to make working a humane proposition, and it’s something that needs to be continually striven for – the idea that jobs should not just run people ragged; they should give back to the people who give so much to them. If people are lucky, they have a job that they love, or at least a job that they feel respects their humanity and gives them some sense that their lives aren’t stuck.

But not everybody gets to do a job that they love, or spend the day doing anything but struggling to get by.

People lament the passing of summer in part because it seems theoretically sound that struggling could be eased by nice weather. Global warming, however, has made the worst summer heat even harsher. According to Pysch Central, as humidity rises so does depression; the ability to concentrate falls.

It’s with all these factors that CHF hopes the video and lyrics to Nada Surf’s “Cold To See Clear” will resonate. Maybe like the video’s central figure, you’re supposed to be preparing to be a good cog in the machine. But you’d like to go off script, because you’re more than the work you do to get by (whether that be a job or simply the work of survival). Or, maybe you wish you lived in a world where it was easier to feel carefree in a way that was simple.

As the song begins, Matthew Caws sings: “Clothes make the man/The house makes the heart/Don’t get me started/ ‘Bout how hard it is to start or stay on track /Or don’t dream or do whether you want or want not to.”

The first two lines are kind of platitudes … the second is less so, even as both seem to evoke things that are obtainable but don’t mean much in and of themselves. On the other hand, a life in which one has a home that helps build and maintain a heart? In a world where anything worthwhile is hard to “start or stay on track with,” that’s particularly so.

Caws later sings: “What can I do but dream/What can we do but listen to stories wretched or glorious / Is it me and you/In other scenes.”

Caws’ narrator has the ability to at least contemplate seeing himself and you the listener in stories wretched or glorious.

But just because “the radio (or TV or your phone) made” you, doesn’t mean all you can do is dream. Autumn always brings some anxiety for many people, but “a little cold to see clear” also makes for one less factor that acerbates depression in the air itself. And so, as the Supreme Court potentially becomes less receptive to the idea that labor should be more humane than so overwhelmingly profit-driven, the fall is a chance to make sure that the work you have to do is the work that keeps you human.


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