The Larger Bowl: Background

The piece is a meditation on fairness—the different fortunes and fates of people—and its lyrical structure is in the form of a pantoum, in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza are repeated as the first and third lines of the next. The lyrics were written years ago, not long after one of Neil’s African bike trips in the mid-1990s, and only shared with Alex and Geddy much later. It was only when they started Snakes & Arrows that that the lyrics made it into a song. “It must have been the right time, because, to my delight, Alex and Geddy responded to the challenge of ‘The Larger Bowl,’ and its unusual construction.”—Neil in the Game of Snakes & Arrows essay

Neil says in The Masked Rider, his 1997 travel memoir about riding his bike across Cameroon, and in “The Game of Snakes & Arrows, his essay about the album, that the phrase “the larger bowl” came to him in a feverish dream he had while riding his bike on an earlier trip through West Africa. “A song with that title wafted through a feverish, hallucinatory “dysentery dream.” Waking in a sweaty tangle of twisted sheets, I only remembered the title, but I knew I had to write that song. Make a dream come true, as it were.” The phrase then became a touchstone for him when he saw instances of unfairness: the heavier loads carried by the women than by the men, and the bullying of one boy by another over who had the bigger piece of candy.

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~ by rvkeeper on January 12, 2011.

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