Tag Archives: Joan Baez

Y is for … ‘Forever Young’

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.

Amen

To me, it’s another way of saying: and may you stay forever young.

F is for being Fortunate

It’s one of those things we often forget.

The weather gets us down (though it’s been pretty good these last few days); the government gets us down – some things never change; we have some health issues; we have problems with the car, the roof needs fixing. So we can get wrapped up in the things that a wrong with life, the things that make it frustrating (and believe me, I could produce a very long list of them here, but I won’t), and the things that we don’t like.

What we forget is how fortunate we are. One of the things that I try to do in Meeting on a Sunday (I should do it more regularly, but at least on a Sunday morning I have a space to do it and no excuses for not doing it) is to consider why I am incredibly fortunate.

I have just looked on the Internet for some of the images and messages that sometimes land in our inboxes or on our Facebook timelines that remind us of this. Here are just some:

  • I am alive.
  • I am able to see the sunrise and the sunset.
  • I am able to music and bird song
  • I can walk outside and feel the breeze through your hair and the sun’s warmth on your skin.
  • I didn’t go to sleep hungry last night.
  • I awoke this morning with a roof over your head.
  • I had a choice of what clothes to wear.
  • I have access to clean drinking water.
  • I have access to medical care.
  • I have access to the Internet.
  • I can read.
  • I haven’t feared for my life today or ever, really.
  • I have had some challenges, and I have learned and survived.
  • I have – mostly – the freedom to make my own decisions.
  • I live in a country that protects my basic human rights and civil liberties. And even if it’s far from perfect, it’s a lot better than some places.
  • I have a friends or relatives who look forward to our next get-together.

There are many of these lists on the Internet, some designed in a very eye-catching and mind-catching way. Here is one example that I like.

It reminded me of a song, sung by Joan Baez on one of her early records (you know, when they still had vinyl) called ‘There but for fortune’. It was actually written by Phil Ochs and the words are:

Image of Alphabet blog F

 

Why I am writing about this?

Because I want to remind myself and all of us that this kind of ‘being fortunate’ – not earned, not deserved, just given to us because of where and when we were born and where we live – brings with it responsibility. Responsibility to share what of that fortune we can share – and speaking strictly for myself, I don’t think I ever do enough of that; responsibility to keep in mind our fortune and stop complaining when a few things go wrong; responsibility to identify the reasons why others are so much less fortunate than we are and to do something, anything, to change that.

The responsibility that comes from the recognition (so ably expressed by William Penn in 1682) that ‘True Godliness does not turn people out of the world but enables them to live better in it, and excites their endeavours to mend it;
not hide their candle under a bushel,
but to set it upon a table in a candlestick.’