All thanks go to Coke Talk (now known as The Coquette) for introducing me to this song. If you follow that link, she’ll explain the song and idea behind it better than almost anyone else – save for Arcade Fire themselves – could do, but I’ll give it a shot too.

I did my research on supersymmetry while listening to the song, so I had to go back and listen again to fully understand it. Once I got there, though, I was awestruck by how perfectly some random indie rock band put words to one of the deepest, purest raw emotions I know of.

Supersymmetry is all about yearning for someone who’s gone beyond where you can reach them. As if it needs any more poetry, the song also seamlessly merges science and art by borrowing a few things from elementary particle physics. In the scientific sense, supersymmetry is the proposed bridge between two fundamentally different types of particles – fermions, which make up the material universe, and bosons, which are the intangible particles responsible for forces like gravity, light, etc. That’s not at all a scientific explanation, just as I understand it so far.

The Standard Model in particle physics says that these are the only two kinds of “things” in the universe, and in fact, all of Quantum Field Theory is built upon the idea that fermions interact by exchanging bosons. The theory of supersymmetry was proposed as an extension to the Standard Model and takes it one step further by linking them, partnering them up. I don’t really understand how that works, but the gist of it is that each physical fermion has an intangible boson superpartner, and each boson corresponds to one fermion. In the scientific world, that theory was recently disproved.

The beauty of supersymmetry as a general concept rather than a scientific theory is that it connects something that can be touched and seen with something else that exists only in theory. It’s like a photograph preserving the memory of a happy couple long after the breakup. Or, more profoundly, the broken connection one feels when someone they love leaves the physical world.

This song goes along with the second interpretation:

I know you’re living in my mind 

It’s not the same as being alive

That person is still living in your mind as long as the memories, hopes, dreams, and wishes you had with them are still in your head. But it’s not the same as listening to that person speak, seeing them move, touch things, and live their life as a part of your world the way they once did. You know that person is lost to you forever, and yet your connection to them is almost stronger for having been broken. But now you’re linked only theoretically, because that person exists only theoretically, no matter how much you want them to be real. You can never truly be linked again because you’re not the same “thing” of the universe that they are now.

Heard a voice, like an echo

But it came from you

That voice can’t really have been heard because it came from “you”, who can’t make an echo anymore.

This is the stuff that spawns entire belief systems, and this song captures it all in one word. It’s heartbreaking, but beyond beautiful.