"The Greatest Show on Earth" as written by and Marko Hietala Tuomas Holopainen....
Archaean horizon
The first sunrise
On a pristine gaea
Opus perfectum
Somewhere there, us sleeping

After sleeping through a hundred million centuries
We have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life
Within decades we must close our eyes again
Isn't it a noble and enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun
To work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it?

The cosmic law of gravity
Pulled the newborns around a fire
A careless cold infinity in every vast direction
Lonely farer in the Goldilocks zone
She has a tale to tell
From the stellar nursery into a carbon feast
Enter LUCA

The tapestry of chemistry
There's a writing in the garden
Leading us to the mother of all

We are one
We are a universe
Forebears of what will be
Scions of the Devonian sea
Aeons pass
Writing the tale of us all
A day-to-day new opening
For the greatest show on Earth

Ion channels welcoming the outside world
To the stuff of stars
Bedding the tree of a biological holy
Enter life

The tapestry of chemistry
There's a writing in the garden
Leading us to the mother of all

We are one
We are a universe
Forebears of what will be
Scions of the Devonian sea
Aeons pass
Writing the tale of us all
A day-to-day new opening
For the greatest show on Earth

We are here to care for the garden
The wonder of birth
Of every form most beautiful
Every form most beautiful

We are one
We are a universe
Forebears of what will be
Scions of the Devonian sea
Aeons pass writing the tale of us all
A day-to-day new opening
For the greatest show on Earth

After a billion years The show is still here
Not a single one of your fathers died young
The handy travelers out of Africa
Little Lucy of the Afar

Gave birth to fantasy
To idolatry
To self-destructive weaponry
Enter the God of gaps
Deep within the past
Atavistic dread of the hunted

Enter Ionia, the cradle of thought
The architecture of understanding
The human lust to feel so exceptional
To rule the Earth

Hunger for shiny rocks
For giant mushroom clouds
The will to do just as you'd be done by
Enter history, the grand finale
Enter ratkind

Man, he took his time in the sun
Had a dream to understand
A single grain of sand
He gave birth to poetry
But one day'll cease to be
Greet the last light of the library

Man, he took his time in the sun
Had a dream to understand
A single grain of sand
He gave birth to poetry
But one day'll cease to be
Greet the last light of the library

Man, he took his time in the sun
Had a dream to understand
A single grain of sand
He gave birth to poetry
But one day'll cease to be
Greet the last light of the library

We were here!
We were here!
We were here!
We were here!

"We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones
Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born
The potential people who could have been here in my place
But who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Sahara
Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton
We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA
So massively exceeds the set of actual people
In the teeth of those stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here
We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds
How dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state
From which the vast majority have never stirred?"

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers
Having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one
And that whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity
From so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been
And are being, evolved


Lyrics submitted by Nmlgc

"The Greatest Show on Earth" as written by Tuomas Holopainen Marco Hietala

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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The Greatest Show on Earth song meanings
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  • +6
    General Comment"Archaean horizon, The first sunrise"
    Earth's history is divided into four principal Eons: the Hadean, the Archean, Proterozoic, and the Phanerozoic. The Hadean is the Eon during which the Earth and Moon formed; in the Archaean, primordial life appeared. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Earth)

    "On a pristine gaea"
    Gaia is the primordial Greek goddess of the Earth. More recently, the Gaia hypothesis is a recognition of the living and nonliving Earth systems which form an interdependent whole. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…)

    "Opus perfectum, Somewhere there, us sleeping" Pristine perfection (of silence, of a blank page, of the very point from which the big bang itself sprung) implies a rich creative potential. Here Earth is painted in the same powerful way. Diversity awaits; unborn beings are sleeping the same sleep to which they will return at death. This interpretation is thematically linked with the album's opening track, "Shudder before the Beautiful," which includes the lyrics, "The music of this awe, Deep silence between the notes, Deafens me with endless love." Or as the furious hobbit screamed at the novice trumpeter, "An artist respects the silence, it serves as the foundation of creativity." (youtu.be/…)

    [Part 2: Life]

    "The cosmic law of gravity Pulled the newborns around a fire, A careless cold infinity in every vast direction. Lonely farer in the Goldilocks zone"
    Gravity pulls the Earth and its inhabitants around the energizing Sun in an otherwise inhospitable universe. Earth is the only planet in our solar system's circumstellar habitable zone, orbiting at the "just right, not too hot, not too cold" distance from the Sun. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…)

    "She has a tale to tell, From the stellar nursery into a carbon feast, Enter LUCA"
    In astronomy, stellar nurseries are the birthplaces of stars: they nurse stars (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…). Poetically, our solar system is another "stellar nursery," in which a star is the nurse, caring for and warming a planet of 'newborns,' early carbon-based life. "Feast" evokes the incorporation of plentiful chemical building blocks into rudimentary life forms. "LUCA" stands for "Last universal common ancestor," the one single organism from which all other presently existing life on Earth descended. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…)

    "The tapestry of chemistry is a writing in the garden, Leading us to the mother of all"
    The periodic table of elements does look like a sort of patchwork tapestry, but this can go further. The historical function of tapestries was as "nomadic murals," pictographical histories which moving people could pack up and revisit wherever they went. The "writing in the garden," in nature, is not only the stone murals left by dead animals in the form of fossils, but is also this chemical writing that encodes the relatively nomadic DNA molecule with the instructions for life. The scientific investigation of this information leads us back to LUCA, and further. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…)

    "We are one, We are a universe,"
    This is the natural conclusion to draw from the fact that life shares common origin, that all life is built with the same blocks, and that all life on Earth is interdependent (gaia hypothesis). The multiplicity of beings on Earth are one, just as the cells in a body are one.

    "Forebears of what will be Scions of the Devonian sea."
    The Devonian geologic time period marked the first significant, rapid diversification of life (and the more well-known Cambrian explosion is another of these 'adaptive radiation' events). It was during the Devonian that the 'higher plants' appeared and blanketed the continents with forests. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…). The word "scion" refers to a shoot of a plant cut for grafting, and is also used to denote a descendent of a notable family. Both meanings apply.

    "Aeons pass, Writing the tale of us all. A day-to-day new opening For the greatest show on Earth"
    Evolutionary adaptation is written in the DNA and as fossils in the rocks, and is ongoing. Species die, diversifiy and delineate. Every day is different, every day something changes.

    "Ion channels welcoming the outside world To the stuff of stars"
    Ion channels are found in the membranes of all cells, controlling the flow of energy through the cells. The stuff of stars is all the physical matter we're made of. So it's the ion channels, guiding enery, which allow living bodies to interact with the rest of the world by exchanging energy with it. "Stuff of stars" is surely a Sagan reference: "The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff." (For fun: youtu.be/…)

    "Bedding the tree of a biological holy, Enter life"
    The bed of a tree is the nutrient-rich soil from which it grows, a soil made of dead things. The "tree of a biological holy" is probably the tree of life (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…). This line refers to the "holy" legendary tree of everlasting life but also means the conceptual, branching family tree of all life, whose bed consists of all deceased beings (in a more literal sense), or all extinct ancestral species (in a more abstract sense). This is thematically linked with the song "Alpenglow."

    "We are here to care for the garden, The wonder of birth Of every form most beautiful"
    "We" could be human beings tasked with acting as nature's stewards, garden of eden style, but that's not chronological -- human beings haven't quite appeared in the song yet. "We" could instead be all of life itself, in a gaia-philosophy sense, which posits that life creates environments ever more hospitable to more life. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…) Or maybe it's a combination of these two thoughts: life eventually creates an environment suitable for the development of consiously acting, thinking human stewards.

    [Part 3: The Toolmaker]

    "After a billion years, The show is still here. Not a single one of your fathers died young."
    Every single one of a given person's ancestors, male and female, lived past puberty at least. But "fathers" evokes "forefathers," which has a nicer storytelling ring to it than "parents."

    "The handy travelers Out of Africa Little Lucy of the Afar"
    Handymen are good with tools; travelers posessing hands rather than forefeet walk upright. Hominids originated in Africa and spread to the rest of the world from there. Lucy is a particular specimen of the Australopithecus, one of many "missing links" between modern humans and nonhuman ancestors. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…)

    "Gave birth to fantasy, To idolatry, To self-destructive weaponry. Enter the God of gaps Deep within the past. Atavistic dread of the hunted!"
    The brain grows, consciousness and creativity along with it. Atavism is the tendency to revert to ancestral type, an evolutionary throwback. Fight-or-flight instincts that helped human ancestors survive have now been creatively projected onto the world to both explain it (origins, meaning, suffering) and gain security in it (bargaining through sacrifice). These are the roots of theism. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…)

    "Enter Ionia, the cradle of thought, The architecture of understanding. The human lust to feel so exceptional, To rule the Earth"
    Nomadic people develop agriculture and settle down into civilizations. The word "architecture" is at once both literal and figurative. The efficiency of civilization graces people with free time to do more than just feed themselves. They develop rich cultural traditions, arts and philosophies, much of which are deeply influenced by how different humans now are from all the rest of life.

    "Hunger for shiny rocks, For giant mushroom clouds, The will to do as you'd be done by."
    Shiny rocks are wealth: gold, precious stones, jewels, and later uranium which leads to the nuclear arms race. The golden rule -- "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" -- is a coin with a dark side: "an eye for an eye," revenge. This ensures the "MAD"ness of mutually assured destruction. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…)

    "Enter history, the grand finale. Enter ratkind."
    "Ratkind" comes from Richard Dawkins' book "The Ancestor's Tale." Dawkins imagines a post-apocalyptic world in which rodents feast on the remnants of humanity (and humanity's garbage). The rat population explodes, and then as they exhaust these resources they turn on one another for food. As a consequence of natural selection, the rats diverge into new carnivorous and herbivorous species, and perhaps, eventually, a specices of rodent whose intelligence rivals that of humans. This is "ratkind." (iberianature.com/wildworld/tag/ratkind/)

    "Man, he took his time in the sun, Had a dream to understand A single grain of sand."
    From William Blake: "To see a World in a Grain of Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour." ...And the story of the planet in 24 minutes. Not bad.

    "He gave birth to poetry, But one day'll cease to be. Greet the last light of the library"
    A bittersweet redundancy: poetry with library, the last light with ceasing to be. Reminiscent of Elan: "Be the first to greet the morn [...] Travel with great élan, dance a jig at the funeral."

    "We were here!"
    Who else is going to vote for this song's inclusion on the next Voyager golden record, if there'll ever be one?
    I want to beam this song into space forever.

    "The remarkable thing about this planet is that in just the same way an apple tree apples, the Earth peoples! We didn't come into this world. We came out of it." - Alan Watts.
    candyhippieon April 23, 2015   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningThis song is a poetic brief summary of the creation of Earth, life as we know it, evolution, and Earth's "roadtrip" through the aeons. Numerous scientific and historic references all over the place so grab yourself a wikipedia if you're going to make full sense out of it!

    To get you going:

    The cosmic law of gravity (self explanatory)
    Pulled the newborns around a fire (Creation of our galaxy, newborns=planets, fire=sun)
    A careless, cold infinity in every vast direction (self explanatory)
    Lonely farer in the Goldilocks zone (That is Earth, the only habitable planet)
    She has a tale to tell (Earth takes the main stage from now on!)
    From the stellar nursery into a carbon feast (Carbon feast = life as we know it)
    Enter LUCA - The last common ancestor of all, the beginning of all that was/is/will be alive in Earth enters the stage. Let the show begin :)
    Nightwisheron April 06, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"Hunger for shiny rocks
    For giant mushroom clouds"

    Clearly a reference to nuclear weapons and the nuclear arms race.
    cganuelason March 27, 2015   Link

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