Vision, from "I'll be Watching You," a song by The Police
Every Breath You Take, throbbingly but threatenly sung by The Police, obsesses with jealous observation. For every action of the other person, the singer’s lover warns, I’ll be watching you. It seems to be romantic until the creepiness seeps in as a perverse fixation, as jealous mistrust, and indeed possibly as an abusive threat – “I will judge everything you do.” Other themes of Vision appear in the song.
Every breath you take
And every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you
Every single day
And every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be watching you
Oh, can’t you see you belong to me?
How my poor heart aches
With every step you take?
Every move you make
And every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
I’ll be watching you
Since you’ve gone, I’ve been lost without a trace
I dream at night, I can only see your face
I look around, but it’s you I can’t replace
I feel so cold, and I long for your embrace
I keep crying baby, baby, please
Insight into a Person: Many people swear that they can interpret other people’s facial expressions, including those emanating from the eyes. For example, Every smile you fake infers falsity is detectable by the singer. Poker players watch carefully for “tells” by their fellow players that give clues to their cards and bids, while others who need to detect deception look for squinting, pupils dilating, rapid blinking, or any tell-tale facial movements. Flickering looks, avoided eye contact, unnatural smiles, crocodile tears, tics, looking off into the distance – but none of these eye movements necessarily mean the person is conjuring up a lie. Each of them, and combinations of them, may be totally innocent. And, unfortunately, skilled cardplayers, con artists, grifters, psychopaths, seducers, and Ponzi schemers can escape detection with practice. They can calmly gaze at you as you “read their eyes,” and pick your pocket. The eyes are unreliable windows into the soul.
Crying and Tears: I keep crying baby comes near the end of the song and links eyes to tears. Our lachrymal glands release tears when sand, dust, or other substances irritate our eyes, or when adults feel deeply sad, traumatized, or excitedly ecstatic. Crying also has a cultural influence; perhaps freely and frequently indulged in some regions or perhaps suppressed almost completely in others. Otherwise, To keep our eyes moist, adults blink approximately 12 times per minute and one blink lasts about one-third of a second. Some people suffer from dry-eye syndrome (nocturnal lagophthalmos, since you asked) because their eyelids do not completely close at night. While we sleep, tears wash our eyes and move the accumulation into “sleep” in the inner corners of the eyes. Rheum, as it’s technically known, is a collection of cells, mucus, oil, and debris.
Physical Marvel: The human eye has evolved a complex physical marvel. Within the sclera, the white portion of the outer eye, the cornea covers the colored portion around the pupil, which dilate according to ambient brightness. The iris is the colored part of the eye, with its color determined by genes. The chambers in front of the lens (both the anterior and posterior chambers) are filled with a clear, watery fluid called aqueous humor. The large space behind the lens (the vitreous chamber) contains a thick, gel-like fluid called vitreous humor or vitreous gel. Our precious eyes are protected by the bones of the orbital socket as well as our reflex to blink if something rapidly flies toward the eyes.
Rods and cones in the retina detect light and color and convey those excitations to the optical nerve. Rods are responsible for vision at low light levels (scotopic vision) such as when lights go down at an opera. They do not handle color and have a low spatial acuity. Cones are active at higher light levels (photopic vision), are capable of color vision, and are responsible for high spatial acuity. The central fovea is populated exclusively by cones. Since each of the three types of cones enables the eye to distinguish approximately 100 shades, the average human combines those exponentially and is able to see about one million shades. The macula, near the center of the retina at the back of the eyeball, provides the sharp, detailed, central vision for focusing on what is in the apartment across the courtyard. The rest of the retina provides side (peripheral) vision, which allows you to see shapes but not details.
Nerve fibers in the retina merge to form the optic nerve, which leads to the brain. Wikipedia informs us that “The optic nerve leaves the orbit (eye socket) via the optic canal, running postero-medially towards the optic chiasm, where there is a partial decussation (crossing) of fibers from the temporal visual fields (the nasal hemi-retina) of both eyes.” The visual cortex of the brain interprets the electro-chemical pulses that arrive.
A spooky preoccupation with keeping track of a lover returns us repeatedly in the song to watching you. The singer probably believes that he (it feels like a man singing) can interpret the moods and thoughts of the person being scrutinized and is brought to tears at the thought of losing the person. Throughout, the intricate complexity and other-worldly capabilities of the eye are taken for granted.
If you are interested in further thoughts on the concept of Thinking, consider other subthemes that don’t fit as directly to the poem, painting, rock song, and movie written about in this series. For an overview, this article explains Themes from Art or click on the navigation bar, About.
We invite you to read about other rock songs discussed on this blog, and their themes. Here they are:
- Alcohol: Margaritaville, by Jimmy Buffet
- Beauty: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, by Roberta Flack
- Birds: Free Bird, by Lynyrd Skynyrd
- Bridges: Bridge Over Troubled Water, by Simon & Garfunkel
- Chance: The Winner Takes It All, by ABBA
- Clothes: Play with Fire, by The Rolling Stones
- Dancing: Dancing Queen, by ABBA
- Death: Honey, by Bobby Goldsboro
- Decisions: Do You Believe in Magic?, by The Lovin' Spoonful
- Destruction: My Hometown, by Bruce Springsteen
- Friends: You’ve Got a Friend, sung by James Taylor
- Money: Poor Side of Town, by Johnny Rivers
- Night: Stand by Me, by Ben E. King
- Rivers: Ferry Cross the Mersey, by Gerry & the Pacemakers
- Sailing Ships: Sloop John B, by The Beach Boys
- Silence: The Sounds of Silence, by Simon & Garfunkel
- Sleep: The Lion Sleeps Tonight, by The Tokens
- Soldiers: Travellin' Soldier, by the Dixie Chicks
- Sports: The Boxer, by Simon & Garfunkel
- Thinking: What a Wonderful World, by Sam Cooke
- Time: Turn, Turn, Turn, by The Byrds
- Trains: City of New Orleans, sung by Willie Nelson
- Wind: Blowin' in the Wind, by Bob Dylan
- Work: Proud Mary, by Creedence Clearwater Revival