Harry Styles: Sign of the Times

So far, we have mostly covered older songs, or newer songs of older artists, like Leonard Cohen’s (1934 – 2016) Going Home and Different Sides, both released in 2012.

Today we are looking at a newer song from a young artist: Sign of the Times, the 2017 solo debut single by Harry Styles (born 1994).

The song, co-authored by Jeff Bhasker, Mitch Rowland, Ryan Nasci, Alex Salibian, and Tyler Johnson, reached number one on the UK Singles Chart and on the US iTunes charts, as well as on several weekly charts like in Australia, Croatia, Latvia, Poland, and Scotland. It won several awards, including the “British Artist Video of the Year”.

Sign of the Times: Mother and Child

According to the Rolling Stone magazine, Styles said the song was

written from a point of view as if a mother was giving birth to a child and there’s a complication. The mother is told, ‘The child is fine, but you’re not going to make it.’ The mother has five minutes to tell the child, ‘Go forth and conquer.'”

Rolling Stone, April 18, 2017, Article by Cameron Crowe

We take the liberty to look at the song from a broader spiritual perspective, abstracting from the specific situation and seeing it as a symbol for death and new life.

Flying through the Air

In the music video we see Harry Styles fly through the air without technical assistance. Maybe a symbol for the soul liberating itself from earthly bindings? The lyrics state clearly that departure is necessary:

We gotta get away from here
We gotta get away from here

This setting off may not be achieved by means of the usual death of the physical body (though Style’s inspiration points in that direction). It could also relate to the aspects of the human being that remain intact after physical death:

If we never learn, we been here before

Bullets: Lessons of Fate / Karma?

Our current life is most probably not the first experience here on earth. The crucial lesson hasn’t sunk in yet. Styles sings about bullets – perhaps as if shot from a gun or a pistol. Maybe they relate to lessons of fate we haven’t accepted yet? Why do we get stuck here on earth, why are we still trying to avoid the bullets?

If we never learn, we been here before
Why are we always stuck and running from
The bullets?
The bullets
We never learn, we been here before
Why are we always stuck and running from
The bullets?
The bullets

Karma ensures that our actions fall back on ourselves. If we accept our karma and learn the lessons, we free ourselves for new experiences. However, if we don’t accept these lessons, i.e. if we avoid or suppress the unpleasant insight that we ourselves laid the causes of what we are confronted with, we get stuck in old habits and patterns of behavior. That way, we are doomed to repeat the same (or similar) experiences. Then the immortal spark within us remains captured in the cycle of incarnations.

Understanding the Sign of the Time

So what is the sign of the time? After many preparatory experiences, the moment of departure has finally arrived. The first line Just stop your crying may remind us of Birds of Paradise, where the human personality, who cannot grasp the journey of the soul, asks: How can I go ahead / When my eyes are becoming wet?

She cries, just like the people Harry Styles addresses. Bidding farewell hurts – at least as long as the splendour of the destination remains unrecognized. In Birds of Paradise, the voice of soul consoles the human, who is controlled by his rational mind: Save your tears, dry your eyes / Said the birds of paradise.

There is really no reason to cry. Harry Styles puts it in a matter-of-fact tone.

Just stop your crying
It’s a sign of the times
Welcome to the final show
Hope you’re wearing your best clothes

This is a turning point – we need to be ready and wear our best clothes. In a spiritual context, this often refers to the soul garment. (See the article on the traditional song Scarborough Fair, which was popularized again by Simon & Garfunkel).

The decisive criterion for liberation is the soul’s maturity. There are no tricks, only a sober look on one’s own state of being.

You can’t bribe the door on your way to the sky
You look pretty good down here
But you ain’t really good

On the path to a higher state of being you cannot bribe any guards. (See the post on Bob Dylan’s Saving Grace: The wicked know no peace and you just can’t fake it.) Self-knowledge is essential. Let’s be honest: We aren’t really good, even if we appear to be from a civil perspective. This may remind us of the bible: No one is good except God alone (Mark 10:18). In other words: Man is but the forerunner of a higher being, the awakening spirit-soul. The caterpillar cannot fly, it has to be transformed to a butterfly and, in the process, let go completely of her old being.

Breaking through to a new Sphere of Life

The task we are facing is to break through to a new sphere of life. If we manage to get into a positive frame of mind, bidding farewell to our old life is not that hard. In essence, it is a joyful path:

Just stop your crying
Have the time of your life
Breaking through the atmosphere

From a higher perspective, earthly worries appear null and void.

And things are pretty good from here
Remember everything will be alright

Will we meet again?

Discernment is crucial when facing the question of if or how we will meet again after diving into a new sphere of life.

We can meet again somewhere
Somewhere far away from here

Who are “we”? Presumably not our physical bodies – they belong to the earth, they consist of this world’s atoms and molecules and are not suitable for life beyond this atmosphere. This holds true also for our perception of ourselves as “I”, separate of others. This aspect of consciousness will be dissolved on the path to freedom.

If we relate these lines to the immortal aspect within us, which has been called pearl, or lotus flower, or rose of the heart, or divine spark, then a reunion with other sparks is absolutely guaranteed. At this level, there is no loneliness of the ego – all beings are inseparably connected. The word lonely contains one (unity) – it just needs to let go of the “I” perspective to get from “alone” to “all-one”.

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