All in the words we choose to find

Bird Droppings January 26, 2021

All in the words we choose to find

Over the years I have been a fan of singer song writers. There are many I could list but one eluded me for some time, Tom Petty. I knew the name and I could tell you that was a heartbreaker song but never really paid much attention. The Traveling WIlbury’s came out back in the 1980’s and I was a fan. George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynn I knew vaguely from ELO, and Tom Petty. Originally, I thought Petty was an afterthought. My son and my wife both got Sirius XM in their new vehicles and locked in on Tom Petty Radio. A ruptured Achilles tendon had me riding with my son to work and listening daily to Tom Petty. I was amazed at his lyrics and songs.

“Well, I started out down a dirty road. Started out all alone and the sun went down as I crossed the hill and the town lit up, the world got still. I’m learning to fly but I ain’t got wings coming down is the hardest thing.” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Learning to Fly when preformed by the Heartbreakers is almost always song by the crowd and literally brings tears to your eyes. I guess I am drawn to songwriters because of the words they chose to find.  I watched a Tom Petty documentary and listen to Tom explain songs and why they came when they did. I often as I sit say to myself, I wonder who I am writing for today? Words have significance and power both negative and positive.

“The farmer channels water to his land. The fletcher whittles his arrows. And the carpenter turns his wood. So, the wise direct their mind.” Dhammapada

Many years ago, there was a folk song entitled, If I were a carpenter, as I read this passage this morning from a Hindu text that song popped in my mind. Many folk artists have covered the song. The song was written by folk singer Tim Hardin. It was a hit in 1966 recorded by Bobby Darrin who after letting two other songs slip by that became number one hits for The Lovin Spoonful grabbed onto this one. A few years later the song was covered by legendary artist Johnny Cash and again a hit. As I think back there was a similar passage that I used many years ago from another great thinker of our time.

If I were a carpenter

 and you were a lady,

 Would you marry me anyway?

 Would you have my baby?

If a tinker were my trade

 would you still find me,

 carrin’ the pots I made,

 followin’ behind me.

Save my love through loneliness,

 Save my love for sorrow,

 I’m given you my onliness,

 Come give your tomorrow.

If I worked my hands in wood,

 Would you still love me?

 Answer me babe, “Yes I would,

 I’ll put you above me.”

If I were a miller

 at a mill wheel grinding,

 would you miss your color box,

 and your soft shoe shining?

 Tim Hardin

I have read these words and listened to many singers sing them. Some will say it is just a song of a blue-collar worker a common man who is in love with an upper-class woman. Will he still love her even though he is merely a carpenter? Some argue it is about Jesus Christ who as stories go was a carpenter in love with a lady. But as I read and reread the words this morning so many more thoughts and understandings. I recall a passage from a speech given by the great civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

During the folk song era of the 1960’s although sitting here pondering it probably in some circles still exists, especially around my house anyhow many songs were written to add credence to various social efforts of the time. Pete Seeger would sing songs borrowed from Woody Guthrie’s hobo and dust bowl travels, the songs of the depression. As he traveled the country he sang at union, environmental, and civil rights meetings, including for Dr. King He would borrow from many and various other sources for his songs.

 One song was made famous outside of folk song circles by a group “the Byrd’s” was “Turn, turn, turn” a song that received its words from a book in the Old Testament Ecclesiastes to be exact. “To ever thing there is a season, ……a time to be born a time to die” As I sit here writing this morning flags are still flying from telephone poles, draped over tables, still a few emblazoned-on T-shirts and paper cups celebrating our nation. Just a few days ago we elected a new president and I am reminded of what and who we are as Americans. It is not our differences but our similarities that make us who we are. It is our desire and passion for freedom.

 By the constitution of the United States all people are equal, and all are entitled to certain liberties and the pursuit of happiness be they carpenters, millers, tinkers, lawyers, or folk singers. As we go about today remembering and watching the few remnants of our real heritage, we need to also think of in being free and being able to speak, and worship freely we should not impose our own ideals and beliefs on others. That is so easy to say but I was reminded of a moment so many years ago of the innocence of youth, as I sat at lunch with my youngest son at a Chinese Buffet in Loganville Georgia. The owner I have known for many years and she had her three boys there with her, it was late afternoon we had been working at the High School working in my room. Her boys were sitting playing at the next booth, some was in English some in Chinese as they chattered back and forth and giggled playing games as small children do, the boys were between 3 and 5 years old. One of the boys using his fingers to pull his eyes slanted said I am a Chinese boy now. As I sat and thought so many possible meanings to that, I know his family, mother, and father both are from mainland China and very active in cultural awareness programs in schools and the community. Was this an example of an innocent child’s color blindness or was it a slight to his heritage imposed by others?

“There is a time to ever season” we cannot choose the road of our genetics, but we can choose the directions and pathways we take with it. We can choose the words and actions. In a cultural awareness class, a few years back as I wrote the word black, indicating race I was reminded that it is correct to say Afro American. I wondered at the response, yet I am still called a white person not a Welsh, English, German, Irish, Native American, Hebrew, Scottish, Amish, person. Although WEGINAHSA would work now that I think of it. I wonder if I called someone a Weginahsa, would they be upset or if I could get that listed as an ethnic group. I could list it under other, I am a Weginahsa pronounced, Wee – jean – A – house – a. I am no longer just white I am a proud weginahsa, if I can spell it correctly and pronounce it the same twice in a row.

We choose the roads and pathways; we choose the words and implications of those words and the attitude that formulates them. MLK as he made the comment about a street sweeper it is our choice as to how great or how little we are, and it is our choice whether we truly are free or not. Today is the time and the season for us to be who we are Americans, and we are able to think act and be free keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)

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