"Hold on Tight"
"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation," Henry David Thoreau wrote in 1854. And though much has changed in the ensuing century and a half, the same problem still haunts humanity—a reality no smartphone, smartwatch, smartcar or smartcard will ever utterly eliminate, despite technology's tenacious utopian promises.
I suspect singer-songwriter Greg Holden would agree with Thoreau's sober, somber assessment of the state of the situation. Because on his first solo hit, "Hold on Tight," the young Brit (who's best known for co-writing American Idol champ Phillip Phillips' "Home"), has a simple-but-profound message to all of those who are silently struggling: "Don't take your life for granted/Why don't you hold on tight/To what you've been handed."
That exhortation forms the lyrical bedrock for this upbeat, neo-folk pop-rock song. But lest anyone accuse Holden of donning rose-colored glasses, the singer lets us know that he knows quite a lot about life's hardships. He knows there are times we're all tempted to sell out our values, our souls, as we just try to get by. He sings, "I've been selling my name/For the sake of who knows."
Paired with that hint of futility and compromise comes pondering about the meaning of it all—meaning that at times feels similarly elusive. "I've been trying to explain/How it's all gonna go," he says. As for hope, well, sometimes that's tough to discern, too. And its painful absence can leave our souls feeling taut with anxiety: "I've been waking up tight/Day after day," Holden explains. "Hope is taking its time/To go my way."
In the face of these challenges, though, Holden's determined to hold his head high and to intentionally focus on the good things he's been given ("But I don't take my life for granted/I'm gonna hold on tight/To what I've been handed"). As for spirit-sapping pessimism and grumbling in the face of disappointment, well, there's little room for that here ("I'll try not to complain/About things that I have lost"). And the singer wisely recognizes that such losses mean he was given something worthy of gratitude in the first place, even if only for a time. ("'Cause when you have something great/That just means there's a greater loss").
Holden understands how the hurts we endure can tempt us to fixate on the past and let pain shape our identity, but he counsels looking forward toward a better future instead. And that cultivates a determination not to let past wounds have the defining word in our lives ("So when you look at yourself/Tell me who do you see?/Is it the person you been/Or the person you're gonna be?")
His conclusion? That we need to make each moment count, because none of us know how much time we might have left. He sings, "Why don't you hold on tight/To what you've been handed/'Cause you just don't know how long you will have it."
The song's inspiring video then illustrates what Holden's optimistic outlook might look like in everyday life. As it opens, a businesswoman walking down the street in the rain suffers a broken heel. She falls, skinning her knee, and she's clearly distraught. Holden plays the part of an anonymous everyman walking down the street with flowers. He sees her discouragement and stops to help her up.
That simple act of kindness initiates a "pay it forward" chain reaction of equally kind acts. The woman pays for a frustrated father's groceries when his card is denied. He in turn gives a man whose truck has broken down a ride. That man finds a wallet full of cash on the ground and returns it to the owner, a tatted-up tough who skeptically counts the money and can't believe it's all still there. When he goes to work at a restaurant, he saves the life of a choking man. Of course that guy's a doctor, who in turn goes to heroic lengths to resuscitate an elderly man who's near death.
As the song comes to an end, Holden shows up to visit the aged patient in the hospital, giving him the flowers we saw him carrying in the first scene. Turns out, Holden's spontaneous act of kindness to a stranger has been multiplied, so much so that it's saved the life of someone he holds dear.
These snapshots of decency in action remind us of the impact a simple, sometimes random act of kindness can make in the life of someone bearing the burden of quiet desperation. This song and its video poignantly challenge us to pay attention to the pains of those around us and not to take our lives—or the lives of those we love—for granted.