Bird Droppings January 14, 2022
All in words, we find
“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 into my mind. Many folk artists have covered the song. Folk singer Tim Hardin wrote the song. 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, I used a similar passage 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?
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, an ordinary 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, a carpenter in love with a lady as stories go. 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.
Although sitting here pondering during the folk song era of the 1960s, it probably still exists in some circles, especially around my house. Many songs were written to add credence to various social efforts. 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 the union, environmental, and civil rights meetings, including Dr. King. He would borrow from many and various other sources for his songs.
One song 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 everything, 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. Our current president will give the State of the Union Address in a few days, 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, and 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 think of being free and speaking and worshiping freely. We should not impose our ideas 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 had known for many years 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, and 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. Using his fingers to pull his eyes slanted, one of the boys said I am a Chinese boy now. As I sat and thought so many possible meanings, I know his family, mother, and father 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 every season” we cannot choose the road of our genetics, but we can determine the directions and pathways we take with it. We can choose the words and actions. A few years back, in a cultural awareness class, 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. However, 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, and 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, the words and implications of those words, and the attitude that formulates them. MLK, as he commented a street sweeper, it is our choice as to how great or how little we are, and it is our choice whether we indeed are free or not. Today is the time and the season for us to be who we are, Americans, and we can 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,
(We are all related)