Take Me With You When You Go by Jack White – an interpretation


Take Me With You When You Go

Take me with you when you go, girl.
Take me anywhere you go.
I’ve got nothing keeping me here.
Take me with you when you go.

I got a feeling my minds in the sky
and I cant catch a breath or a break
like a guy who is strangled
and begging for help not attention
and then not to mention the pain that is mine

and the thought of not knowing
that whats going on
in my eyes and my hands
could be wrong and without any knowledge
and knowing that helping yourself
could be hurting or harming someone

Take me with you when you go girl.
Take me anywhere you go.

Another gem by Jack White. This is the last cut on Blunderbuss, and along with On and On and On, the pair of songs close out the album in a special way. This song seems to generally about dis-satisfaction with life in the “here and now” and therefore also about a longing for another place and time. The sentiment reminds me somewhat of an old song by Steely Dan called “Any World that I’m Welcome To.” The statement begun in the the title ends with the lyric “…is better than the one that I come from.” (I posted some comments on that song here.“) There seems to be considerable overlap with On and On and On, with the main themes of dis-satisfaction and agnosticism regarding the present life situation.

The song structure conveys the subject of the song very well. The cheerfulness of the music in the first part enhances the singers desire to leave by making him seem only optimistic toward the change. Presumably the “girl” that he wants to accompany is already leaving. It is interesting that the destination is never mentioned. He is merely willing to go “anywhere” she goes. The main reason for his ambivalence toward where he is now, is conveyed when he say “I’ve got nothing keeping me here.”

After the first verse the music and singing undergo quite a dramatic change to a more disturbed and frenetic sound, fitting to the lyrical content of the subsequent verses. Here the focus shifts to the present situation, as the singer narrates his subjective feelings that contribute to his existential angst. He feels that his mind “is in the sky” (just as it repeatedly was in On and On and On) which seems to serve the same purpose in both songs, to signify his longing for a higher source for direction or purpose.

Though his mind is “felt” to be in the sky, his main feelings are otherwise; he feels out of breath, out of lucky “breaks”, strangled, and full of pain that is his. He also feels misunderstood since he is “begging for help,” while people think he wants attention.

He then moves to his “thoughts” regarding the life he lives, “what’s going on in my eyes and my hands.” His description is merely a pictorial way of viewing our life, namely life as what we see and do. What bothers him is that he is afraid of not knowing if his manner of life could be “wrong” and “without knowledge,” i.e. missing the point or purpose and mis-informed.

The next phrase, “and knowing that helping yourself could be hurting or harming someone” is very interesting. The word “knowing” seems to strongly suggest a life that consists in “helping yourself” not only could, but generally does “hurt or harm” others. Is this a reflection on our generally self-centered focus of life that fails to help others that need our help, and thus hurts them? In the “parable of the good samaritan” did the ones that failed to help the man that was beaten and robbed because of their self-occupation actually hurt him? The answer is yes, because there are sins of what we do, and there are sins of what we don’t do. Or is the singer concerned with the our place in the tangled mess of a “world trade system” in which the beneficiaries of the system prosper, while some that support the system are exploited? Whatever the genesis of the thought was, it actually shows that we are all susceptible to an inner guilt that can be caused by a lack of knowledge concerning the righteousness of our actions. The apostle Paul knew this and wrote to Christians in Rome that were in danger of violating their conscience by doing things that they thought might be wrong, even if the things weren’t intrinsically wrong things to do (this shows the power of the conscience). Paul wrote to them and said,

22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (Romans 14:22-23, English Standard Version)

The song repeats the second and third verses and then returns to the first two lines as the song also moderates from the frenetic tension back to the more flowing gaiety. In this way the angst of the song is framed by the more optimistic beginning and ending. The whole song portrays a sense of irony though, because the problems of the present life/situation stem from a lack of knowledge regarding it, but the prospective life “anywhere you go” also is unknown and uncertain.

One thing I did not consider was the “girl.” Perhaps he knows that she knows where she is going, and that is enough knowledge. That type of scenario is how faith works. In the Old Testament Job could say “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” Biblical faith is not necessarily knowing where we are going, it is knowing where God is going.

Perhaps the girl’s journey itself is not meant as literal. It is possible that the song is about the “journey” that is available in “love” or “relationship” or “sex.” If that is what is the song means then the question is whether the journey is also meant to be ironic, or in other-words, merely an escape from the present but no real change in a future that is assured. On the other hand perhaps the “girl” personifies the “love” that not only interrupts but that transforms. In that case the journey may lead somewhere. (See on “Love Interruption“.)

I conclude by saying that the song provides an interesting meditation regarding the challenges we all face today our world. Life has always been perplexing in many ways, but today a more complete agnosticism haunts us because we seem to sense that we ought to know “what’s going on in my eyes and my hands.” Why don’t we know? Where can we find a more whole life?”

Steely Dan’s answer was that the where was “any world that I’m welcome to.” Is there any world that is “putting out the welcome mat?” It is interesting that Steely Dan seemed to sense that another “world” was necessary. It is also interesting that the last book of the Bible contains a vision of another world. In Revelation 22 it says,

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations…

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Comments, questions, critiques are always welcome!

Original Content © Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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