What does it take to live life to the full, with no regret? OneRepublic delivers a poignant answer to that question on “I Lived,” a song that Ryan Tedder told People magazine he wrote for his 4-year-old son, Copeland.
“The whole idea, to quote the late great Robin Williams from Dead Poets Society, is very much ‘carpe diem,'” the band’s 35-year-old frontman said. “That’s the song—that’s what it’s about.”
And so it is. The up-tempo sixth single from OneRepublic’s 2013 album, Native, majors in overcoming fear, facing hurts with courage, and leaving every ounce of your effort and energy out on the playing field of life.
“Hope when you take that jump,” Tedder begins, “You don’t fear the fall.” That couplet structure, what a father desires for his son amid various challenging circumstances, is then replicated again and again:
“Hope when the water rises/You built a wall.”
“Hope if everybody runs/You choose to stay.”
“I hope that you don’t suffer/But take the pain.”
“Hope that you spend your days/But they all add up.”
And then the couplet expands as Tedder reflects on the inevitable hard moments that happen in romance: “Hope that you fall in love/And it hurts so bad/The only way you can know/You give it all you have.” Lyrics also imagine looking back with satisfaction on a life well lived: “And when the sun goes down/Hope you raise your cup/ … Hope when the moment comes, you’ll say/I, I did it all.”
That last phrase leads into the carpe diem chorus: “I, I did it all/I owned every second that this world could give/I saw so many places/The things that I did/Yeah, with every broken bone/I swear I lived.”
Woven amid those thoughts (especially for those who might deem some of them to be in any way reckless) is the balancing force of a father’s determination to be there to help his son (or daughter) through every triumph, every pain, every choice (“I wish that I could witness/All your joy/And all your pain/But until my moment comes/I’ll say/I, I did it all”).
And if all that doesn’t give your tear ducts a workout, the video adds another layer of triumph and suffering and inspiration. It narrates the story of 15-year-old OneRepublic fan Bryan Warnecke—who has waged a lifelong war against cystic fibrosis. And it shows us his determination to not let his physical travails steal his joy or keep him from embracing every moment, just as the song describes.
“When I first found out the life expectancy for the first time, it really scared me,” Bryan tells the camera. “Right now, it’s about 36. It’s just one of those things that really makes you appreciate life. It makes me appreciate where you are as a person. [So] I want to … have as much fun as I possibly can. And my biggest fear is not being able to do that.”
Accordingly, we watch intercut video footage from the present and from Bryan’s babyhood as he tries to live life at full throttle. Home video footage shows him and his dad enjoying all manner of physical adventures: bicycling, surfing, skiing, jet skiing, swimming, three-wheeling, skateboarding, rollerblading, playing hockey and riding his bike along a mountainous road outside Denver to raise money for cystic fibrosis research.
We also witness the painful treatments Bryan must endure daily to cope with his condition. “It feels like I’m breathing through a straw,” he says. “Whenever I try to breathe hard, it hurts.” Still, he affirms (again, right along with the song), “I want to make the most out of my life.”
The emotional song and video conclude with Bryan attending a OneRepublic concert at Colorado’s iconic Red Rocks Amphitheater. As Ryan sings “I, I did it all” from stage, Bryan screams out the lyrics as best he can, too.
Pass the tissue. And grab the torch. Because this is the stuff that makes me want to be a better friend and father, husband and human being.
And though the band isn’t singing about a life of faith, per se, the message here nevertheless isn’t far removed from Jesus’ words in John 10:10: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Considering the band’s Christian roots and its members’ current faith, it’s obvious that they’ve got a vision of hope and perseverance in mind that’s consistent with God’s promise of abundance: living life to the full, without regret.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews.