Hawa Recommends: “Light Years” by Jamiroquai 

By definition, a light year is about 5.9 trillion miles away — an unfathomable unit of length to anyone who is not an astronomer or a physicist. We mere mortals who use the term colloquially tend to think of a “light year” as a unit of time. Like, it would take light years for X, Y, or Z to actually happen—that is, a very, very, very, very long time. I don’t have a dog in this fight, but want to add yet another dimension to this space-time confusion: given the speed of light, is a light year really that far away, or that long?

Everything being relative, if you travel at the speed of light — going very, very, very, very fast to get very, very, very, very far — then distance and duration aren’t so daunting. Yet, everything being relative, we mere mortals — as compared to light —are so very, very, very, very slow, slothful and itinerant as we plod toward each of our ultimate destinations. Perhaps this is why a “light year” is often used to refer to how long it would take to reach some long-desired goal, or to how far away some hope of a glimmer seems as we tunnel through life.

The song “Light Years,” by Jamiroquai, captures this human dilemma.

It can take a life time to be
How you wanna be.

The song is from The Return of the Space Cowboy, whose album cover features the group’s signature logo — a silhouette of a lean, bellbottomed figure with a large buffalo lodge hat on its tilted head — against a cratered moonscape. The acid jazz band is led by Jay Kay, (a Stevie-Wonder sounding British dude who sings soul/funk jams accompanied by the occasional didgeridoo).

You can be light years
Away from serious intention

And I thought I knew it all . . . 

I’d get to turn mankind
This way

And Jay Kay sings these lyrics above a funky yet plodding background; you can hear the labor of the piano, the bass, the beat. But then, as if the sun suddenly comes out, we hit the smoother, more melodic hook.

Now I got that sunshine in my life

Hell yeah, light years away from
Where I wanted to be . . . but

Now I got that sunshine in my life 

It’s like Jay kind of jumps, at the speed of light, from one state of being to another — from frustration and drudgery and complaint into lightness, freedom and joy. I listen to this song in all moods, amid all of life’s vicissitudes. A reminder of how lightening quick things can change. For better and for worse.

(Song recommendation by Hawa Allan)

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