Track number 6 on Lateralus, by TOOL.

What is noteworthy about this song is the fact that it is part of a duo with the next track Parabola. It would appear as if the band intended the two tracks to simply be one song, and split it to emphasize the theme. The latter half of Parabol/Parabola is simply put to different tempo and proportions. I challenge anyone distinguish between Parabol and Parabola on their first time hearing the songs. The difference is that Parabol is more gentle and reflective than Parabola. I see this song as a reflection on Third Eye, from ÆNIMA. Especially when Maynard sings Wide-eyed and hopeful, then Wide-eyed and hopefully wild.

Like the title suggests, the song seems to arc in a similar fashion to a parabola. What starts off as a slow cognitive piece soon turns to pure excitement and urgency as the track changes over to Parabola, then slowing down to the original pace again, with a more rooted, powerful and mature theme. What's great about TOOL is that it is completely interpretational. What I gain from this song may be completely different from what another person may gain from it. It seems to me that the title, Parabol, may have been a pun on the word Parable for obvious (or perhaps not so obvious) reasons.


Parabol is the sixth track on Lateralus, Tool's 2001 offering. The album was the band's third, and was by all measurable standards their most complete, and most complex, production. Parabol was not released as its own single, but rather as a lead-in to the Parabola single. Parabola is the seventh track on Lateralus, and the two songs are undeniably and eternally linked to each other. The song features lyrics by Maynard James Keenan, Adam Jones on guitar, Justin Chancellor on bass, and Danny Carey on percussion.

So familiar and overwhelmingly warm
This one, this form I hold now.
Embracing you, this reality here,
This one, this form I hold now, so
Wide eyed and hopeful.
Wide eyed and hopefully wild.

Parabol is, by Tool's standard, a quiet song. There is no bottom to the song, Adam Jones manages to skim across the surface of the lyrics, caressing the song's single riff fifteen times over three minutes. The song is not a whisper; the song is no secret shared in schoolhouse corridors. Still... there is a the feel of a confidant's voice behind this song. A confidant like a lover, laying in the crook of your arm. Clocking in at two stanzas, this is one of the shorter songs in Tool's catalog. Not to be outdone by the grandeur of listed track times, this is also one of the more oft analyzed songs. Much in the same way it feels, to the ear, that the guitar is playing lightly on top of the lyrics, the song's meaning is also swimming around - someplace in colder waters than the lyrics alone.

The first possible meaning which the song imports is that of love. This "familiar" feeling the protagonist has for "this form I hold now" seems to be that of significant recognition. If we are to read into the use of "unbelievably warm" and "wide eyed and hopefully wild" with un-innocent eyes, it would be easy to speculate that this song is about sex. Digging just a little deeper, maybe push the envelope of our imagination just a little further, and contemplate the second stanza lines referring to "This body holding me" the possibility of the song being something more is unveiled. Piecing together the muted guitar play, the underwater sounding percussion, and this new visual: Parabol could easily be about a birth of a child.

We barely remember what came before this precious moment,
Choosing to be here right now. Hold on, stay inside...
This body holding me, reminding me that I am not alone in
This body makes me feel eternal. All this pain is an illusion.

When does a child first form memories? For that matter, when does a baby become a child? At first steps, or first sounds, or first words? Do we wait until they can recognize themselves in a mirror, or is it enough to reach out towards food? Considering the piece in its entirety, these questions could be addressed within its lyrics. Rather than being about the moment of birth, the song could be about the moment that the baby becomes aware and takes its first breath, and releases its first tiny scream. It is one of the great victories of Tool's lyrics that there is often no "final word" on what the meaning is behind each song, and Parabol lives up to that with its pair of deeply layered stanzas.

Small type: Parabol by Tool

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