What does Both Sides Now mean?

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Joni Mitchell: Both Sides Now Meaning


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Both Sides Now Lyrics

Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons ev’rywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on ev’ryone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in...


    #1 top rated interpretation:
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    Dec 5th 2010 report

    I feel this song represents the evolution of ones life. When we are young we think we can do and have anything we want. The clouds represent the dreams of youth. Then life can get in the way and things happen that we do not expect. The first feelings of love and then how it is perhaps lost. The changes from the fairytale to the hurt when it ends. That truly no one person is ever totally on our sides. The braveness to put you feelings out there at the risk of rejection. Loosing friends who we thought were special and the heartache when they let us down. Through it all,just when we think we have it all figured out we realize we do not.


    #2 top rated interpretation:
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    Feb 19th 2014 report

    I see the song as the recognition of one's own limits of knowledge, understanding, and perspective as well as our lack of control over reality.
    Having looked at clouds, love, and life from the bliss of idealism as well as the gloom of pessimism, one sees that our perceptions are a matter of our perspective; and that even for the same person, this can change throughout life.
    Even in seeing "both sides" or multiple sides, we come to understand that while we have (depending upon our mood or stage of life) sworn we understand and know about the world, love, and the meaning of our lives, we really don't know these things after all.
    We come to see our limits of understanding as evidence that whatever way we look at things, it is ultimately illusory. It is not necessarily the fanciful ideals or the disillusioning heartaches that we recall; i.e., the things we perceived and experienced as real at the time. Rather it is the illusions of the world, love, and life that we recall -- the recognition that our ideals and our heartaches are themselves illusions, and so too our thoughts and feelings about them.
    We may blame clouds, others, or even life itself as deterring us from our true course; yet there is wisdom in recognizing that blame is a game and an illusion, and that how we recall life is our own responsibility.
    We really don't know anything for sure. And yet, in acknowledging this, we affirm that the illusions themselves are enough for us to carry on. We don't need the control we thought we did. Life goes on, and we, in time, both need to let go and hold on. In either case, something will be lost and something gained.
    Life is this inexplicable mystery, and the more we delve into its meanings the more we recognize that we have no certainties about its meanings. This does not mean that life has no meaning, but only that we must choose them for ourselves, just as we must ultimately choose our perceptions about how we look at the world, love, and life.
    This is a song about spiritual maturity -- about growing up to the reality that life does not simply happen to us. It may appear to be like fairy tales at times, and like broken relationships at others. But both views are illusions. And yet we still have to choose a way to look at life here and now.
    We may never have the truth, but ultimately that is OK. There is at least integrity in seeing all sides of the world, of love, and of life and declaring frankly that there is so much we do not understand about all of it.
    As we see our own limits of understanding, this will hopefully soften our understanding of others and their perspectives -- help us to see that, just like us, they have the illusions that they know something for a time when they really do not.


    #3 top rated interpretation:
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    Jan 14th 2018 report

    I never tire of this song. I didn't realise that Joni Mitchell wrote it. I thought Judy Collins wrote it. You see I really don't know song writers at all. ;)

    I love Judy's version. I can picture the clouds in my head as she sings about them, especially the ice cream castles.

    I admire Joni for admitting that she doesn't know life or love at all. Life is beautiful and horrendous at the same time, which can drive a human being mad if they really focus on that theory.

    I live with depression. I see the world as a sad place with no God protecting us. God is only present in good and happy times. In sad times, he or she or they are absent. As a child and an young adult, I viewed God as a useless Superman, who let bad things happen to good people. Now, I view God as an illusion. I really don't know him or her or them at all.

    Lastly, in therapy, I learned to view clouds as thoughts. Let them pass by and remember you are not your thoughts.

    Thank you for reading! I loved reading the above interpretations, which are wise, helpful, and real.

  4. anonymous
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    Jan 17th report

    Although I’m 60 I’d never heard this until I just saw the ending of Netflix series Afterlife 3, for which it was perfect. Having lost a partner, the memory of that trauma combined with these lyrics has me in floods of tears, and perfectly sums up how it’s difficult to appreciate fully the little things in life until they’re gone.

  5. anonymous
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    Jan 10th 2021 report

    This song's interpretation is fairly straight forward: it claims reality is epistemologically nihilistic. Question is (to me), is it describing the true epistemological situation of things, or is a romantic over-exaggeration created by a culture that is already epistemologically nihilistic? In encountering this song at the end of the movie "hereditary", I think its pretty clear that this song can support good or evil behavior, insofar as this song is basically saying, "our perceptions and cognitions are purely arbitrary", which basically strips the forms of reality we encounter from having any directive significance in guiding us for how to live - even though they have this authority whether or not we acknowledge it. In effect, and in reality, the satanism of the movie "Hereditary" is perfectly consistent with the satanism in American culture that was ascendant when Joni Mitchell wrote this song (she was herself raised in a military family, to add some developmental context). "Both Sides, Now", notice how there is a seemingly unnecessary comma at ",now"? The comma seems to suggest that "Both sides" - as in, the sides of good and evil, are the two realities that are subsumed under the transcendental reality of the "now". Another interesting point which Hereditary brings to mind, and which is relevant to my overall argument with this post, is how the cult in question repudiated the "trinity". What is the trinity vis-a-vis the concept of now? Well, theres "now" (the "present") as well as the past and future. Satanic (i.e. adversarial, to natures forms) philosophies are opposed to the trinitarian nature of the natural world. Past and future are the temporal foes of satanic ideologies; as are making distinctions between right and wrong (which only arise from a psychology tempered by by temporal awareness). Earth being the third planet from the Sun (or Godhead). To see things only from the now is to render everything else epistemologically irrelevant. Transgenerational cults (as in Hereditary) can exist and abuse innocent people because "only what is happening right now" is real. To remember or give priority to a past fact is to "sunder" yourself from your immediate present convictions; from the spirit who has "rightful" control over you in this present; to the laws of nature which have put you here as "master", and this person as "slave". It admits complete passivity to the natural world, rendering our psychological capacity to reflect to be "unnatural", even though it clearly has a purpose and value as natural as anything else i.e. as supporting survival.

    As catchy as this song is, its meaning is morally and ontologically repugnant, though few people have the psychological or spiritual maturity to admit to this - instead being carried away by a combination of nostalgia (if their older) or pretentious romanticism (if their artsy).

  6. anonymous
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    Jun 25th 2020 report

    I agree that we have expectations that most of the time do not come true and as I get older I am disappointed in my life and think I will never experience the good things like love and life and can’t imagine feeling so happy or so in love which is all I ever wanted not money just happy.

  7. anonymous
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    Nov 14th 2018 report

    I Think this is about how happiness can easily lead to misery. Like look at the Toy Story 4 trailer!

  8. anonymous
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    May 13th 2017 report

    A common theme through Joni's music is the passage of time, and how our lives change as we age. Naiveté, innocence, and reality collide as we age causing us to doubt what is real, and our interpretations of life when we were young. The song ends with the admission that she will likely not have it all figured out in the end.

  9. Julianne
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    Apr 18th 2015 report

    When Joni wrote the song she had just started to get famous after having been an unknown singer for quite sometime. When I listened to it for the first time I was just starting to realize that I was an adult and the child-ish world that I had once lived in was fading away. These lyrics really captured the changes that I felt.

    As children or teenagers, we feel that we know everything about ourselves and that we have complete control of ourselves. As adults we realize that there's so much that we don't know about and that every body else around us like ourselves doesn't really know what's going on and that they are just making it up as they go along.

    Read more at https://readingthroughlyrics.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/both-sides-now-adults-really-dont-know-life-at-all/

  10. anonymous
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    Apr 9th 2015 report

    Heard this beautiful song years ago. then it was featured in love actually a beautiful christmas movie about relationships. it was the song chosen for the woman dealing with her husband's affair. little did I know as I watched it in 2012 that my husband was in the middle of a long term emotional and physical affair. it was not uncovered till summer of 2013 and I am still reeling from the reality of it all. long term marriage with a man who was always looking for that euprohic "loving feeling" elsewhere unknown to me. I had evolved into the mature love phase he had died inside to me because the feeling went away. he is a very depressed and emotionally disconned individual.

    this song is now my theme song.... You see the really kicker here is I was married once before and that man left me for the "younger woman" I asked this man please do not ever do not do that to me again, you know my pain, just be honest and say you don't love me anymore... But no he didn't care enough about me to be honest with me about his dying feelings.

    I really do not know love... It is an illusion to me... I have given it only to get nothing in return. we are trying to reconcile like the movie but it is hell. And with his depression issues I feel hopeless most of the time. he has been counseled, medicated, plus countless other treatments only to still be depressed. so he has very little or no emotion to give me.

    I really don't know love at all...

  11. anonymous
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    Dec 1st 2013 report

    I was at a gig once when she talked about what inspired her to write Both Sides Now. We can now see clouds from the earth and now air, via airplane. That's such an incredible thing, that nothing should frighten us.

  12. anonymous
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    Mar 29th 2013 report

    For me this song is about how she's seen things through rose colored glasses, but then she became disillusioned by the reality of it all. She however chooses to recall the illusions, the good stuff and not the bad. Thereby never really facing the harsh reality thereof. ("I really don't clouds/love/life at all")

  13. anonymous
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    Apr 29th 2012 report

    Actually Joni wrote it after reading a the book "Henderson The rain King. The author was in a plane over Africa and realised you could now see clouds from both sides.

    It gave her the idea to write this song as she thought there are two sides to everything. These details are from an interview she did in 1967 three days after she released the song

  14. anonymous
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    Nov 19th 2011 report


  15. anonymous
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    Jul 29th 2011 report

    Life as a child so innocent and naive like Peter Pan or Pollyanna, however, clouds/love/life has dichotomies- good and bad, happy and sad, hopes/dreams and disappointments. Earthly life is tough, for most of us unlucky people...

  16. anonymous
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    May 25th 2011 report

    I LOVE this song. To me it is about life as a whole. We are imaginative, very happy, somewhat naive, idealistic and chock full of music. We have also been through a lot in our lives that may have gotten in the way of some our dreams. Even though we experience all aspects of life, we still have so much to learn because the universe and life itself are very big things in themselves. No one really has it all figured out.

  17. anonymous
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    Oct 29th 2009 report

    I believe that the words reflect the state of mind before and after depression. The clouds are an analogy for the cloudiness that comes with depression. They have blocked out the joy of life (the sun) as they just rain and snow on everyone. The relationships that you have are changed as they develop. The feelings associated with being in love changes to something that is perhaps more real, but less intense, than at the start. Friends also drift away like the clouds especially those that cannot understand the changes that have happened as a result of depression – fair weather friends. Finally recovering from depression you begin to look back at everything and evaluate things much differently in hindsight, some good some bad, but now there is only forward.

  18. anonymous
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    Nov 16th 2006 report

    This song is about losing your innocence. It is about going through life and experiencing things and coming out the other side with a different interpretation than when you went in, but still taking something away from it.
    It changes you....Life changes you...Joni Mitchell is one of our most prolific writers....She is amazing!!

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