Down My Arms, A Thousand Satellites

"Touch"
by Sleeping at Last, from Atlas: Year Two (themes explained)

when will i feel this
as vivid as it truly is,
fall in love in a single touch,
and fall apart when it hurts too much?

can we skip past near-death clichés
where my heart restarts, as my life replays?
all i want is to flip a switch
before something breaks that cannot be fixed.

i know, i know — the sirens sound
just before the walls come down.
pain is a well-intentioned weatherman
predicting God as best he can,
but God i want to feel again.

rain or shine, i don’t feel a thing,
just some information upon my skin.
i miss the subtle aches when the weather changed,
the barometric pressure we always blamed.

all i want is to flip a switch
before something breaks that cannot be fixed.

invisible machinery,
these moving parts inside of me
well, they’ve been shutting down for quite some time,
leaving only rust behind.

well i know, i know — the sirens sound
just before the walls come down.
pain is a well-intentioned weatherman
predicting God as best he can,
but God i want to feel again,
oh God i want to feel again.

down my arms, a thousand satellites
suddenly discover signs of life.


From “How It was Made" by Ryan O'Neal

I did a lot of research on the sense of touch before writing this song, and was so fascinated by what I learned. There seem to be endless possibilities of poetry in the sense of touch, so I had a tough time picking a path. One fact in particular stood out to me; Unlike any of the other 5 senses, you can’t shut down your sense of touch. Hearing: you can cover your ears, sight: you can close your eyes, taste: you can choose to not eat something, smell: you can close your nose. But for the majority of people, touch is always on. It’s so on in fact, that we train our brains to filter out less important touch information because it’s so overwhelming. (An example: if you’re sitting right now, you most likely aren’t thinking about how the chair feels underneath you, or if you’re standing, how the floor feels against your feet. You’ve learned to tune it out.)

Inspired by those facts, I began to imagine what it might feel like to lose the sense of touch. As I wrote, I quickly realized that the metaphor of losing one’s sense of touch is a deeply dark experience, and this song got a little uncomfortably personal for me... 

At first this song was going to be a work of fiction about a character losing his/her sense of touch. As I imagined what that must feel like, I realized I was actually writing an intensely personal song. I’ve gone through seasons of my life where I’ve felt like I was stuck in between joy and sorrow. A purgatory of sorts, where I wasn’t present and enjoying the good in my life, but also not fully processing or feeling the bad either. Just numb. It’s a terrible state to be in, because by eliminating pain, we eliminate the possibility of joy. Over the last couple years, I’ve fallen into that heart-space on and off. I don’t like it. Honestly, I process it indirectly in all of my song writing to some extent, but it all pooled together in the lyrics of this song.

when will i feel this
as vivid as it truly is

That opening lyric set the tone for the entire song, as it sums up what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed. The question and the answer. I chose words throughout the song like “vivid,” “volume”, etc. The idea here is that since touch is the “mother of all senses” I wanted to tell this story using words that are related to senses outside of touch.