Falling to Pieces

Written by Jori Sackin

When I was sixteen and listening to Faith No More, I was attracted to their music, but was also drawn in by the bright colors, crazy clothes and exploding fish.  I didn't think so much about the lyrics. It was more about the feel of the song and the energy of the video.  Looking back visually it seems pretty silly and random, but the lyrics hold up, especially now as I consider it as an adult who has the specific focus of seeing the world through conceptual metaphors.  

An important thing to remember about metaphorical concepts is that they come from the fact that we are a body moving through space.  (Embodied Cognition).  We understand abstract concepts using our body, and we take the spatial relationships we are given and apply them to harder to define meaningful experiences.

Back and forth, I sway with the wind
Resolution slips away again
Right through my fingers, back into my heart
Where it's out of reach and it's in the dark

The first few lines of Faith No More's "Falling to Pieces" (1989) takes a physical experience we've all had, being pushed around by the wind, and gives it a deeper meaning.  Just as we feel out of control by a physical force pushing us in ways we didn't intend, we associate this same loss of control with the forces that affect our ability to consciously guide our lives in the direction that we choose.  Resoluteness is imagined as the ability to resist these outside forces.  The more resolute, the more rigid you become, the more you can withstand the forces that will blow you off of your path.  The more flexible, the more you "go with the flow" but the less control you have over your direction.  

In Mike Patton's experience, at least according to his lyrics, resoluteness is hard to grasp since it slips through his fingers.  Grasping is Knowing is a metaphorical concept that is frequently used such as in the sentence, "I don't grasp what you are trying to tell me."   A further extension of this metaphor is that Grasping is Controlling, since once you know something, you have possession of it, and can use it as if it were an object in your hand.  His lack of ability to grasp his resoluteness in then an admission of a lack of control over "the self" and its ability to stand up against the outside forces that push and pull on it.

That it slips back into his heart implies that these feelings initially occur in the heart and are then transferred, most likely to the brain, where they can be known, but for whatever reason, cannot be controlled. His inability to do this makes these experiences go back down where they remain out of reach and in the dark.  Again, "out of reach" implies an inability to grasp.  Since Light is Knowing and Darkness is Ignorance, such as in the phrases, "I'm going to shine a light on this topic..." or "Sarah was really in the dark about her brother's alcoholism," in the dark in this sense is associated with the unconscious feelings of the heart, that since they cannot be seen, they can never be known or controlled.

Sometimes I think I'm blind
Or I may be just paralyzed

The metaphors Seeing is Knowing and Darkness is Ignorance are reinforced further by the next line, "Sometimes I think I'm blind".  The Life is a Journey metaphor is hinted at in the next sentence, "Or I may be just paralyzed", as this states a lack of motion, being stuck, not progressing, etc.  So not only does he feel out of control in relation to outside forces that push and pull upon him, but he is blind, in that, he cannot see what is going on, therefore he does not understand what's happening or where he should be going.  This condition causes a halt in the journey because he cannot discern the correct path.  The inclusion of "may be" in the sentence "I may be just paralyzed" casts further doubt on his ability to even evaluate his own movement. 

Because the plot thickens every day
And the pieces of my puzzle keep crumblin' away
But I know, there's a picture beneath

"The plot thickens" has a long history as a phrase.  The most poignant characteristic of the metaphor in this instance is that fluids that are thicker are harder to move around in than fluids that are thin.  A thickening constitutes a solidification of things that impair a persons ability to move as freely as before.  The plot is thickened by more and more stuff being added to it (characters, conflicting desires, limiting options) thus it is also associated with a rise in complexity.  The more things being added, the more complex, the less room there is to move in a confined space.

Dealing with this complexity is further confounded with the apparent loss of a cohesion in the line, "the pieces of my puzzle keep crumbling away".  If you think about putting a puzzle together, there are three main parts; the beginning where you have many pieces in a pile, a midpoint where the picture starts coming into view, and an ending where all the pieces have been stuck together to form a complete picture.  The fact that the pieces themselves are crumbling points toward a futility of the ultimate goal.  The puzzle will never be completed, but this is ok because "there's a picture beneath".  This seems to imply that the puzzle itself, which could be read as "the ego" or "the constructed self" or even "the clarity which we perceive the formation of our life" is just a surface layer, and that what lies beneath is the actual layer, one with a deeper more concrete meaning.  This would mean that his inability to construct a coherent self, a complete puzzle, is in some ways expected, since it is essentially an impossible task that we are asked to perform.

Indecision clouds my vision
No one listens...

Here again we have the metaphorical concept Seeing is Knowing, since his vision has been clouded, which blinds him and makes it impossible to proceed on his journey.

Because I'm somewhere in between
My love and my agony
You see, I'm somewhere in between
My life is falling to pieces
Somebody put me together

Since he is placing himself in-between love and agony, we are supposed to draw a relationship between the two, since Closeness is Similarity, such as in the phrase, "They're not exactly the same, but they are pretty close."  Love and agony share the similarity of both being intense emotions that over power our more conscious deliberate thought process.  They take us in unintended directions that may or may not be good for us.  They also could be associated with a blindness of vision such as in the phrases, "Love is blind" as well as being blinded by intense emotions such as rage or agony.  

The line "My life is falling to pieces" refers back to the initial puzzle metaphor that was presented.  His stated inability to see reality for what it is, his inability to exert any sort of control over his actions and his lack of resolve to resist the forces that surround him, cause him to conclude that the only course of action is to have someone else assert this control over him, which is why the song ends with an appeal for someone else to "put him together", to complete his puzzle, to bring a clear cohesive picture into his life.