I have the greatest ministry assistant in the world.
I asked her if she could possibly find me a decent copy of Pete Seeger's book, The Imcompleat Singer. This book is a collection of many magazine articles that Pete wrote over many years for Sing Out! Magazine and other periodicals.
Well, it's on my desk! She did it! A very nice blue bound copy. I looked through it for 90 minutes, and ended up reading over a 3rd of the book! Not bad for a book that has just under 600 pages!
So, I am going to add it to my 2012 book list. I will be reading in sections as my interest sparks my curiosity to do so.
Now, I know if you aren't into folk music, you probably are preparing to click on to another blog or web site. And I don't blame you. But before you go, let me try to explain something.
Nothing new to my friends . . . but I'm a bit odd. I've always been drawn to read about people who valued and fought for the 1st Amendment. I've also been a bit of a folklorist for quite a while, which involves reading about the organized labor movement in the US in the 1920-1930's, as well as the plight of many displaced by the dust bowl. Many of the songs of that time were written for and sung by people who were not allowed to have an individual voice in matters involving their own lives and in the lives of their families.
I think that the definition of such a thing, at times, is "injustice."
I was a young teen during the Viet Nam War. I remember in my sophomore year, my varsity basketball team was eating dinner after our last home game, and our coach went to every table, with tears in his eye, telling us the Viet Nam War was over, and that none of us would have to be drafted to go to war. He shook our hands, and hugged many of us.
The music of that time, especially folk music and acoustic rock, often spoke about such things. I never understood the Viet Nam War, and many of the songs I listened to seemed to affirm that as the thought of others. Creedence Clearwater Revival's Fortunate Son, Crosby-Stills-Nash's Long Time Gone , Pete Seeger's Waste Deep in the Big Muddy and Bring'em Home, Joan Baez and Judy Collins singing Where Have All the Flowers Gone? and Amazing Grace, as well as songs sung by Arlo Guthrie and others. I embraced certain songs of that day and time rather deeply, and wanted to sing them with friends, and go to events where people came together hoping to work for peace. I was new Christian about that time, and felt in my heart it was what I was supposed to be doing.
I was told that I was not "allowed" to go to such events.
My dad was a principal at a local school, and his son could not be "seen" in such places and circumstances. That always stuck with me, how the 1st Amendment was OK for some folks, but not the right of others. If I exercised what I thought was my right, then my Dad could lose his job?? It was better (safer) that I stuck to sports.
Well, I admit now to defying my dad, in part. I still went to events where people gathered to express their views . . . but often sat or stood in the very back, or in the shadows so as not to be recognized . . . and sang softly . . . but still taking a lot of it in. Some events I left early because of their encouragement to do stuff that I felt was simply wrong, or would hurt people.
The events which mostly involved singing . . . I was often one of the last to leave. I listened to it all . . . agreed with some of it . . . disagreed with some of it. Discovered songs worth singing, and others not worth singing.
Later as a youth minister (I was hired because I could play guitar and lead singing), I had a vegetable crate in the youth room. One rule I had was this ... that at any time, any youth could go "stand on their soap box" and speak their peace on a subject, or to "politley" disagree with what was going on or being discussed or planed. The other rule was "no one had to listen if they didn't want to, but every one had a right to speak."
That was then. Truthfully speaking, I wonder if our personal 1st amendment rights have been surpressed more than we think in the years since then.
Pete Seeger made some decisions in his life that I don't necessarily agree with. But for many years, he suffered from those who wanted to punish him for his stance supporting the 1st Amendment. That interests me. Enough to read further his book, as a folklorist, and as an individual who feels it is wrong to say to others, "you can't have a say because you disagree with me."
It seems that I am studying Pete's life quite a bit lately. Has anything in my life changed as a result. Two things I can think of.
First, and this is common knowledge, I am singing most anywhere I can, to and for senior adults in nursing homes, and to and for children who are patients in hospitals, and for people at community events and gatherings. And of course, I get to sing here at this wonderful church I am privileged to serve as a pastor. At this present time, I am able to sing with the blessing of those who make it easy for me to do so.
Second, out of the fear of my being labled a hypocrite, I am truthfully working on becoming a better listener. As a pastor, I am often asked to support various causes, most of which I have never heard of and have no personal interest in, nor the time. But every so often, I get the feeling that I need to learn more. At those time I then try to listen carefully, respectfully, and then give appropriate thought to my response. Often people just want to express how they feel, to someone who will not judge them. I hope to be counted on as someone who will give ear as people work their situations by talking about them.
As a result of listening, my wife and I now support an AIDS orphan in Kenya. It was through listening that I ended up recording a little CD of children's worship songs and raised about a $1,000 that we sent to the "Feed the Children" program in Meru, Kenya. Because of listening, I became more involved with the residents of the city housing program, our neighbors that I see every day just outside my office window. Working to listen better is paying off.
I am grateful for the chance to grow, sing and listen. I hope I can rise to the occassion as often as possible.
Am I trying to be Pete Seeger? No, I'm just trying to be who I am. Perhaps I do some of this out of an admiration for some of the things Pete has accomplished and stood for in his life. However, Pete's life is his life. My life is mine. God's grace filled gift of love leaves me responsible for most of the decisions and responses to life I make. My responsibility is to be me. It's a heavy responsibility, not to be taken lightly or without regard.
My apologies for this rambling. If you thought it was going somewhere, but didn't in the end, then send me something to read, and I'll repay you in that way for your time. But its been good for me to type this all out.
God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>