Who Never Lets You Down?

It is time for another more or less bi-weekly dosage of ‘Depeche Dharma’, when I interpret Depeche Mode’s songs with the Dharma. Featured today is one of their classic anthems from the 80’s – ‘Never Let Me Down Again’ (from the album ‘Music for the Masses’), which was a massive hit that paradoxically juxtaposes hope and despair with a glowing yet dark majesty. Growing up with DM made life easier because their songs indirectly taught me how to embrace the Dukkha of adolescent years – to the extent that I cannot imagine how it would have been like without encountering their albums.
It’s as if they were saying – ‘Hey dude! It’s okay! Your’re not alone!’ That should explain my affinity with DM, and my penchant for DM stuff. The best songs are those whose words cannot be expressed better than with the very tunes assigned to them. That is how these songs strike both an emotive and rational chord with their listeners – though music tends to be emotionally appealing. In this sense, DM has ‘never let me down’. It’s interesting how the same old songs can be heard differently as we grow up. It’s not as if the songs changed a single note; but that we change. It is this ability to reinterpret past experiences dharmically, that helps us to ‘redeem’ our past misgivings too.

I had a life-changing experience at the age of 16 (that was not related to DM). From that point onwards, my English compositions (essays) scored A1’s all the way. It wasn’t because my written language improved, but because there was a spark of inspiration that wasn’t there before. However, my writing wasn’t original all the way – because I often playfully embedded DM lyrics within. I guess that was when I first interpreted their songs. My English teacher used to complain that he had to read my essays 3 to 5 times before understanding what I was trying to say. This was worsened by my rebelliously cursive handwriting. Despite this, he gave A1’s. He used to leave remarks like ‘It’s deep philosophy!’ at the end of the essays. But it was only the beginning, of the re-formation of my thinking, to be more and more complete with the Dharma in time. The most encouraging experience in school was him telling the class on our final last Teacher’s Day together, that he predicts I’ll become a writer. In some ways, this has become true – though there is much more to do to get published and distributed beyond these shores. Got to strive on… to share the Dharma far and wide! Now, back to the song…

Never Let Me Down Again

I’m taking a ride with my best friend
I hope he never lets me down again
He knows where he’s taking me
Taking me where I want to be
I’m taking a ride with my best friend

We’re flying high
We’re watching the world pass us by
Never want to come down
Never want to put my feet back down on the ground…

See the stars
They’re shining bright
Everything’s alright tonight

DM could be referring to sex and drugs (and alcohol) as ‘best friends’. The duo will always will let us down, because all physical highs eventually fall – shortly too. As such, hope that such rides will never let one down is wishful thinking indeed. Such cyclic and ultimately unfulfilling roller-coaster rides of highs and lows, of exhilaration and despair are indeed the stuff of Samsara. Our ‘best friend’ is that which we can take unshakeable refuge in; nothing worldly like sex and drugs. Even when we can’t find the Dharma embodied perfectly in a Dharma friend (spiritual friend), we can do our best to take the Dharma itself to be our best friend – and learn to befriend the Dharma. The truth is, when we encounter imperfect Dharma friends, it is still the aspects of Dharma within them, that they radiate, that makes them worth befriending. (Of course, we befriend out of compassion too.) Just as I’m selective of which parts of DM’s songs to gratefully interpret with the Dharma, we can appreciate anyone for any aspect of the Dharma they embody, and befriend one another – to motivate one another to further embody the Dharma – till we become Buddhas – the perfect living personifications of oneness with the Dharma. The Dharma is our best friend, that will never let us down – not even once, more more to say ‘again’, that takes us to where we really ‘want to be’ – True Happiness.

The end of the song takes solace in the stars, in a haiku-ish way, hinting of the hope and beauty that they glimmer with for our sake. Nice. (These are to me, among the most comforting words DM has ever come up with… though they are not totally true.) However, even the stars will fizzle out in time. Only the timeless splendour of the Dharma lasts – the best friend anyone can ever have – forever! (BFF!) On a related note, about the romanticised idea that the stars shine for us, please see an article on it, as interpreted through Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’ (their first big hit) at http://moonpointer.com/index.php?itemid=2595 (A more recent and live performance of DM’s song can be seen in the video below.) Have fun!

More Depeche Dharma: