Learned this one today. There's something about getting inside a lyric that makes you hear it differently. I'd always thought this was a song about bad choices; the sort that make you feel your life has been wasted. Like my dad. One of the few real things he ever said to me was that becoming an insurance agent was the worst decision of his life. He had a Masters in Romance Languages and was an expert in classical Spanish. No money in that. Sales, he thought, would be secure. It wasn't.
What he did to make "a living" became deadening. Which brings me to what I'd missed about this song. Fear makes us vacant and not "here," and the choices we make out of fear carry over to everything else. We think we can compartmentalize and be shut down in just one part of our lives but we can't. Being checked out is a 360 degree commitment. The song's a bit rough, but I like it that way. Perfection is overrated.
So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell,
blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?
How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have you found? The same old fears.
Wish you were here.