Heidi Isern

writer. thinker. whiskey drinker.

Lessons From Pink Floyd: Drugs, S…anity and Rock n’ Roll

Last Friday a motley crew went to see Roger Waters perform Pink Floyd’s The Wall. It wasn’t a concert. It was an image and sound spectacle, a rock opera performance with screens, giants, and fireworks lighting up the entirety of AT&T ballpark.

Like many of my generation, I first started listening to Pink Floyd in high school, feeling only its lyrics could relate to the melodrama in mind. Like any teenager, I felt no one could understand my personal pain except for rich, drugged up rock stars. Now, as an adult, I try to relate to careers that don’t require heroin. However, the music still brings out those exaggerated emotions melded with a faint hope I have moved beyond pubescent self-absorption.

I told my dad about the concert and he promptly stated “Hmpff. That’s a show for stoners.” My mom interjected ‘Heidi, maybe you and your friends should see a more pleasant 70’s group, like The Grateful Dead…..oh wait, I think that’s a stoners group too…..” My mom forgot that I knew she was a past Grateful Dead groupie.

If we were any good at rolling joints, we would have lived up to my parent’s expectations. However, our feeble attempts left most of the precious plant on the floor of the stadium. However, you didn’t have to be high to wrap yourself up into the musical experience, joining the huge crowd in collective emotion. Watching the show was also reminder to stay with the world and not put up our own barriers and enter reclusion.

For those that have not seen the show or movie, The Wall’s story line is simple. Each life event causes the main character, Pink Floyd, to create a ‘brick’ in his personal wall.

1. Pink’s dad dies in WWII
2. Pinks’ mum is overbearing
3. Pink gets tormented at school, his artistic talents are chided (has any great artist ever had an easy time at school?)
4. Pink draws into himself with music as his only release and turns into a moody rockstar
5. Moody rockstar (Pinks) gets married…but his wife cheats on him while he’s on tour
6. Pink cannot manage his deep feelings of isolation, loses his mind to ‘worms’
7. Pink’s ‘worms’ make it hard to perform
8. Pink’s manager injects him with hallucinogenic drugs, so that he can play again (obviously the only solution in the late 70s/early 80s)
9. Pink’s drugged brain creates lyrical fantasies where everyone is attacked, dictators emerge, and he puts himself on trial for failure
10. Wall comes crashing down
Okay, so it doesn’t sound that uplifting and does make life seem rather futile. But almost anyone (anyone interesting anyway) can relate to many parts of the story line and empathize. They may also glean a few takeways:


1. Life is hard.
As they say, shit happens. Life is challenging with many people trying to destroy us. Your mind is constantly riddled with self-doubt and insecurities. However, the more we live inside ourselves, the more self-absorbed we become. Although parts were highly relatable, Pink’s story was rather one of nihilistic victimhood.
2. We have a choice on how to manage it.
We can give in and become victims of our own mind. It can turn us into crazed beasts that only communicate with our own brain coils, like the tragic story of Pink Floyd. Or we can decide to open up outward to the world and acknowledge that other possibilities exist. If we want to be positive we can take the Wall’s ending as a sign of rebirth.

During the past few weeks I had a ‘floydian’ bought of insecurity. I distinctly remember a good friend telling me, “Stop. Stop. Your thoughts are not real. Pay attention to the outside world.”
She was right. The more we turn inward, the crazier a world we concoct. Although it works well for writing poetry, it doesn’t bode well for relationships. Staying inside our own head is ultimately selfish. We refuse to acknowledge others around us, world opportunities, the sunshine peeking through the fog. If we pay attention, we’ll realize that there is a lot of good shit out there too.

Enjoy the music of The Wall, revel in its genius notes. However, don’t use it as inspiration to create your own. It’s a lonely path, even for a rock star.

“And all you touch and all you see, is all your life will ever be”
― Pink Floyd

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