Today is my mother’s birthday. She is 77. Her mother is being transferred, today or soon, from a convalescent center after hip surgery to hospice. She is 101. At 53, I’m older than my grandmother was when I was a child. Kinda gets ya thinking, don’t it?
I’ve been a folksinger as long as I can remember, since I first picked up the guitar at age 13 (I think that was 1965 or 66). The first song I could play was “Green, Green”, which I never learned the verses to, but boy did I wear out the chorus. That summer at camp all the kids called me “Greenie”. I remember my first real concert, at age 14, at a USO show in Long Beach, CA. Would you believe one of the songs I sang was “Greenback Dollar”? Write me if you don’t know the lyrics… it’s a travel-worn bum song crossed with sea shanty. What kind of gall did I have, singing a song of being travel-worn at age 14 to a bunch of soldiers and sailors?
I’ve been singing Utah Phillips songs for at least 20 years. People kind of looked at me funny back then. Now they’re listening. I’m singing the same damned songs… “They use up the air, they use up the seas, they use up the oil and they use up the trees — well, now, how about you, friend, and how about me? What’s left when you’re all used up?” I don’t think that people are listening because the song means more now. I think they’re listening because I’m old enough to look like the guy singing the song.
Pete Seeger wrote, “How do I know my youth is all spent? My get-up-and-go has got up and went. But in spite of it all, I’m able to grin, and think of the places my get-up has been.” I sang that song 30 years ago. People looked at me funny. I sing it now. People laugh their heads off. I guess the white stuff in my beard gives me more credibility. The only thing about this I’m thankful for is that Utah Phillips and Pete Seeger are still alive and singing… otherwise I’d feel too old to keep going sometimes.
The life of a folksinger is an odd one, to say the least. You have to describe in moving poetry and song how horrible the world is… and still continue to be an optimist that it can get better. Of course, you are free to use someone else’s descriptions, but the optimism must be your own. And then you convince yourself, through your own songs, how horrible things are, and every now and again forget to hold on to the optimism. All the while, only a few people bother to listen to you, and there is no way you can expect to earn a living by singing. People are always suggesting you try singing more “covers”, which in your mind is selling out. Many of us DO eventually sell out, and either start singing popular songs (or writing in a popular sense) or give up music altogether. I’ve done a little of both, but every few months my guitar tells me it is lonely and I spend more time with it. And then another song restores my optimism, and I learn to sing it well enough to convey that to the few who listen to my music.
I don’t think my attitudes have really changed over the years. I’m still saying the same things I believed as a kid, but I think I believe them more now… maybe aging has given me more credibility to myself and I’m listening now.
If me being old means anything, then please listen. God is real. He/She/It has been called many names, and many humans have use Him/Her/It to push their own agendas and control others. Once God is in a book, He/She/It stops being God and starts being an agenda. Throw the books away. God is within you — or more correctly, you are within God. Nothing in the Universe is — or can be — outside God. God is one thing and one thing only — Love. Love unites. Anything that divides us, anything that tells you to hate or fear or reject someone else, IS NOT OF GOD. “What is in your heart is more important than what may be written in a thousand books.” – Virendra Qazi
There is NOTHING you can do to be forgotten by God, any more than you could forget your fingers. There is NOTHING in the world so HORRIBLE that cannot be forgiven. Forgive yourself; forgive those who hurt you; forgive those you have hurt for hating you… and you give yourself back the life God has given you. If God didn’t want you here, if God didn’t love you (for love is the act of creation, and I might have that backwards), you would cease to exist. You haven’t. You are loved. I love you, but you should start by teaching yourself to say that yourself. The hardest words to say at the bottom of a depression are “I love me” but I am convinced, after living through thousands of depressions, that they are the words that help the most. Keep saying it until you can feel yourself starting to mean it. Then keep saying it. This is not ego, it is love, and it is God. Loving yourself for who you are is reconnecting with the reality of the Universe, and that Reality is God.
And there is no way to convince someone who won’t listen. Maybe I’m listening better now…
All the Love in the world,