Envy seems to rule our lives these days. We don't celebrate losers in our twenty-first century go-faster, 24-hour culture. Our admiration is reserved for the one that crosses the line first, that scores that number one hit, that marries the supermodel. Only in our more enlightened moments do we glance outside that narrow band to look for the ones who make do with their mortal best and who manage to derive fulfilment and happiness with less than the absolute maximum.
Think of someone famous, popular, rich, successful. We covet only the parts of his or her life that we can see, the surface flash, the red carpet, the limo, the fancy clothes. Do we envy the arguments with their partners, their insecurities, their high-rolling risks? Hell, no, but we conveniently forget all those.
I'm put in mind of this false idolatry because there's a song I listen to that makes me confused: "I worked hard, but not for the money/I did my best to please/I used to think it was funny/Till I realised it was all a tease." Which is fine in itself: a lack of ambition, a desire to do good by others or just a lack of direction? We all suffer this from time to time, or longer in some cases.
"Don Quixote had his windmills/Ponce de Leon took his cruise/It took Sinbad seven voyages/To see that it was all a ruse." Now we're getting more complicated - someone's gone through that whole adulation and gratification business (as a recipient or idolater, it doesn't matter which), only to come out the other end and see if as being hollow and cheap.
"That's why I'm looking for the next best thing/I appreciate the best but I'm settling for less." And here it all comes undone, to my mind. Why is accepting your human, limited best a defeat in some way? If we can come back from the jagged cliffs of envy and dissatisfaction, like some contestant on Pop Idol who realises, at long last, that they really cannot sing, then we can close that particular book and move on.
There's a tiredness about this song, a hoarse fatigue that speaks of long journeys taken in fruitless pursuit of false gods, and it's that timbre, that quiet acceptance that puts the hook in here. It's time to move on.