God Only Knows What I’d Be Without You
There is a reason why the sentimental song “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys is always playing in the back of this dad and husband’s subconscious. Truthfully, I have to acknowledge that the days of my life are ultimately numbered; as are my wife’s and son’s. And that’s why I just can’t take one single day for granted.
If I’m being really honest, I might have to admit the song has at least made my eyes water more than once or a few dozen times, but only because of the deep and heavy subject matter that it always makes me think about. And I may or may not be the only person who has the same kinds of thoughts when I hear the song; I don’t know.
It ranked #25 on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. Released in 1966, the song was one of the very first pop songs to reference God in its title, though it was not necessarily a religious song. No doubt about it: “God Only Knows“ by The Beach Boys has remained one of my favorite songs, ever since I first heard it twenty years ago on the 1991 episode of The Wonder Years, entitled “Heartbreak.”
While its nostalgic mood and melancholy emotion are what have always grabbed me, it wasn’t until a few months ago when my wife and I decided to watch the entire series of HBO’s Big Love (via Netflix) that I began to consider the value of the lyrics. The show features “God Only Knows” as its theme song, so a few times everyday for a few months, I was exposed to the powerful song.
It’s very possible to love “God Only Knows” without actually understanding the meaning of the lyrics. Admittedly, the lyrics do seem to be a bit confusing and conflicting. For example, the first line is, “I may not always love you but long as there are stars above you, you never need to doubt it-I’ll make you so sure about it.” Up until recently, I just assumed the speaker was doubting the future of his relationship with the woman he loved at that point in his life.
But the only conditional phrase in the sentence is “as long as there are stars above you.” The reference is to the love of his life still being alive. If the stars are above you, you are on Earth. If the stars are below you, you are in Heaven.
So as long as the two of them are still alive together on Earth, he will always love her. Because despite the grandiose idea that two people can romantically love each other forever and be married eternally, the popular rabbi Jesus taught his followers that “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.” Though it’s difficult for me to grasp and to deal with, I realize I will only romantically love my wife in this life, not the afterlife as well.
So much hangs on that phrase “as long as there are stars above you,” when looked at from an eternal (and Christianized) viewpoint. I want to be married to my wife forever, not until one or both of us dies. So when I think about how my romantic love for her is limited to this life and this Earth, it makes me sad. And the song “God Only Knows” always points that out to me.
There is one other particular line in the song that I thought was peculiar: “If you should ever leave me, though life would still go on believe me, the world could show nothing to me so what good would living do me?”
My interpretation is that the lyricist is saying suicide would not be an option for him if she died before he did, but in essence, life would lose its flavor and he would have to essentially find a new purpose in life. Because she is his life.
I think about that concept; probably nearly everyday. Yes, I have been blessed with my ideal wife and one magical son, but for how long? I don’t sit around and worry myself sick about them, knowing that any of us could encounter an accident or random freak medical condition or unseen poisonous spider bite. But in the deepest of subconscious ways, there is a part of me that does always worry about something happening to them, or myself.
I just can’t imagine my life without my wife and my son. Yes, my eyes are watering as I type these words. So what can I do? I can make sure through my actions, communication, time, and presence, that they know how much I love them. That they are truly, literally the world to me. With or without the stars being above us.