The last few letter: just two more to go. But as with X and a few others on the way, this one has been difficult to decide on. Not for lack of choice in this case but because I wasn’t really sure of what I wanted to focus on.
Then, on Tuesday this week (that’s 2 June 2015), I happened upon an item on the Internet. I don’t even remember how I happened upon it. But it was a link that had Patti Smith and Joan Baez in the title so I clicked on it and it was a YouTube video of on the occasion of the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award to Joan Baez at a ceremony in Berlin on 21 May 2015.
I watched it. It’s quite something. Not many people have been awarded this honour. You can see the list on Amnesty’s website.
You can find the full lyrics in various places on the Internet including a version of the song sung by Joan Baez with the lyrics displayed on screen. The images on screen are a bit saccharine but you can close your eyes to listen to it once you’ve read the lyrics.
It is a very beautiful song, which invokes the idea that youth (and age) aren’t just about the passage of time but also about a state of mind. It is a kind of prayer, which lists many of the things we might like to achieve but know are unattainable; that doesn’t make them any less important.
Key among them are: ‘May you always do for others and let others do for you’, May you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong, May your hands always be busy, may your feet always be swift, may you have a strong foundation, when the winds of changes shift’.
Joan Baez recorded this song first in 1976 as far as I know. Of course she was quite young at the time!
But even more poignantly, in my search, I then came across a story of Pete Seeger in his 90s, in 2012, recording this song (with him doing the voice over for the text) for Amnesty International USA. So here’s the link to Amnesty International and the start of these thoughts.
The recording is available on YouTube
but there is also a slightly longer YouTube video about the story behind this recording, which is very heart warming. It’s really a ‘must see’!
It is really about making the message of the song much more explicit. It is saying that being young isn’t about age; it is about being open. And yes of course, chronological age has an impact on our lives. But whatever age we are we can still make a difference (just see Pete Seeger in the two videos); and in the dark times we are facing, in this country with this government, in the world at large with so many crises, so many violent conflicts, so much dogmatic ideology we need this kind of song and this kind of story. So take the time to listen; take the time to be encouraged by it; take the time to share it with others.
In a different context, I came across a reflection by the Revd. Paula Clifford at the end of a conference on ‘The Cost of Life on Earth: Companies, climate change and your money’ held on 30 March 2015 and arranged by the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility in Oxford:
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, So that you may live deep within your heart
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people
So that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy
And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
To me, it’s another way of saying: and may you stay forever young.