Famously, R.E.M. never explained their lyrics — so of course, what I’m about to say is not their message, but my agenda, my propaganda, my secret scheme to use whatever music as an empowerment tool for people making changes in their lives for the better.
This song comes across to me as a lament, a disillusionment about someone. Someone he thought was, actually trying.
Consider this, consider this
The hint of the century
The slip, that brought me
to my knees, failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing aground
Now I’ve said too much
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try
But that was just a dream
That was just a dream
By “trying” what I mean is to follow your dreams. You see, people love it when someone follows a dream and succeeds. We all have dreams, and we all wish if we could realize our dreams. Another one of us succeeding is one more confirmation that dreams could be realized.
I’m always amazed at the number of people who ask me about my music. Even people who don’t know me very well, if they know that my dream is to make music, they ask about it. And they smile when I tell them that it’s still my dream and I am actively pursuing it.
If I had given it up, will they be surprised? Probably not, because more people give up than persist. We are all used to people not giving up, not changing.
But what if you persisted? Even if you don’t succeed, you’re still taking part in a movement of people pursuing their dreams. And that encourages others, even sometimes inspire them. People making changes and efforts for a better life is a good thing for everyone. Hope makes a difference.
So, as the song says, consider this. Michael Stipe dreamed about you trying. Laughing. Singing. It may have broken his heart to see that that was just a dream. Otherwise one can’t really write a sorrowful song like this. By giving up, you’re breaking more than just your heart.