The lyrics of “Giant” are a build on Sir Isaac Newton’s famous expression…sometimes attributed to other people as well… “If I have seen further, it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants”.
Sir Isaac Newton was modestly deflecting praise for his work…pointing out, as is true for all of us…that his discoveries would have been impossible without the discoveries of scientists who went before him.
Calvin Harris and Rag’n’Bone Man are talking about something slightly different in “Giant”, though.
They’re using the “standing on the shoulders” idea as a reference to someone who lifts someone up on their shoulders when times are tough and carries them through until they’re out the other side.
Soldiers on the battlefield rescuing wounded colleagues do this. As do firefighters leading people from burning buildings to safety. As well as search and rescue teams risking their lives to save others.
These people are undoubtedly heroes, and they have a level of physical resolve which I’m not sure I’d be able to muster in the same circumstances.
But what about people who rescue others from the depths of their despair?
We tend not to call them heroes. They don’t usually get medals for what they do. Not do they appear in photographs alongside presidents and royalty very often. However their work to save another human life is no less heroic.
Don’t get me wrong, nobody admires the bravery of a soldier, firefighter or search and rescue team more than me. I don’t begrudge them a single accolade. They do something I don’t have within me, and I salute them all.
Sometimes what goes on inside your head is the biggest challenge of all.
Rag’n’Bone Man starts from a pretty dark place…
I understood loneliness
Before I knew what it was
As opening lines go, that’s pretty bleak. Understanding what loneliness was when you were too young to even know the word in the English language which describes how you feel doesn’t sound like the sort of childhood you’ll see in a Hollywood movie.
People who go through difficult times…in childhood or later in life…often appear to get through it somehow. On the surface, they’re fine and they function reasonably well afterwards. If you didn’t know what had happened you probably wouldn’t even notice there was something going on inside.
But that’s because they’ve locked those difficult times away in a box somewhere in the darkest corner of their mind and spend the rest of their life secretly terrified it might get opened again. In the meantime, they get on with life as best they can.
I’m not recommending this as a course of action, just that I’ve seen it done…and done it myself.
A crucial realisation leads to things picking up for Calvin Harris and Rag’n’Bone Man…
I would be nothing
Without you holding me up
Now strong enough for both of us
Both of us, both of us, both of us
You see, people who lock their feelings away often don’t have a source of support which allows their troubles to be dealt with in a more healthy way.
It’s not necessarily that they don’t have family or friends around them…they may well do. But their feelings about a particular experience means they can’t discuss what’s going on in their head with anyone. They’ve got to get through it entirely by themselves somehow.
Maybe they feel an intense shame about what happened…maybe they feel they would be judged harshly for their mistakes…maybe their family has a strong belief system them don’t share and it’s easier just to appear to go along with the rest of the family than say what they really think.
There are many possible reasons for feeling the intense loneliness Rag’n’Bone Man sings about. But you find it in the happiest-looking people with seemingly the most supportive family and friends, just as much as you find it in people in more evident signs of distress.
Feelings are a great leveller. They don’t respect your family circumstances, the clothes you wear, your position in society, where you went to school, the job you do or any of the other markers we normally use to assess people.
The only thing that makes any of this easier is having someone whose shoulders you can metaphorically stand on. Someone you can be completely open with and someone you know will lift you up every time you’re feeling down.
It’s not necessarily a quick fix, but over time the intensity of what’s going on in your head reduces.
Gradually you come to terms with whatever happened and only then can you start the process of letting those feelings go…setting them free from your soul so you’re no longer tortured by the memories of those dark times.
You might call this love…and indeed it might be love…but it doesn’t have to be. Like the soldier on the battlefield, the firefighter in the burning building and the search and rescue team out at sea, there might be no romantic love involved…just a degree of respect for human life and dignity which makes ordinary people do extraordinary things.
Don’t hide your emotions
You can throw down your guard
And free from the notion
We can be who we are
This is where all our challenges come from. Hiding our emotions and not feeling we can let our guard down to explain what we’re going through.
The combination of those elements is the one-two punch that knocks us to the canvas time after time. Until one day the referee counts us out.
But don’t worry, we’re not there yet. Calvin Harris and Rag’n’Bone Man tell us the secret of getting beyond all this…
You taught me something, yeah
Freedom is ours
It was you who taught me living is
Togetherness, togetherness, togetherness
Togetherness is, of course, the polar opposite of the loneliness Rag’n’Bone Man sang about at the start of “Giant”.
And it’s the only way to flip that model around and start to free your soul from the catalogue the troubles you haven’t dared share with anyone else all these years.
Human beings are funny creatures. Too many of us feel we have to exhibit Marlboro Man levels of intrinsic motivation and self-reliance.
That’s not how life works at all.
You might be able to grind out an existence that way, but it’s not a life. And when times are hard, you’ve got nowhere to go.
Togetherness…living as fellow humans sharing the same planet…being respectful of other people even if we don’t necessarily agree with them…supporting people who need our help…being kind to the strangers we meet along the way…
They’re the qualities that really make the world go round.
When you find those qualities in abundance, the world is moving in the right direction. When you don’t, there’s usually trouble ahead.
That’s true whether we’re talking about an individual or society at large. The same levers work either way.
As Calvin Harris and Rag’n’Bone Man point out, once someone has helped you, not only are you in a better place, but now you’re in a position to help others…
I am a giant
Stand up on my shoulders, tell me what you see
Now you’ve become the giant that others can stand on to see a little further into the distance, just like Sir Isaac Newton did.
Allowing someone to lift you up gives you the strength to lift up others…togetherness has a multiplier effect which makes the world a better place.
And that seems like a goal worth shooting for…
“Giant” is a tremendous song. Ran’n’Bone Man’s deep, powerful voice carries the emotion beautifully. And Calvin Harris does a wonderful job on the production…I love the brass refrain and the incredibly brief, but meaningful, flourishes on the organ during the verses. That’s the deft touch of a master producer at work.
I hope you enjoy “Giant” by Calvin Harris and Rag’n’Bone Man. And more than that, I hope you can be who you really are…if you feel you can’t, I’m sending you all the love and affection you need to heal in the words of this song…
If you’ve read this far, thank you for your time and attention. I know you could have spent your time doing something else, so I’m very grateful that you’ve spent it in the company of one of my favourite songs.
The video is below, but if you prefer to listen to your music on Spotify, you can find today’s track here… https://open.spotify.com/track/5itOtNx0WxtJmi1TQ3RuRd