Posts Tagged ‘Hope’

Change is Gonna Come

October 19, 2018

Some wise person said a fish wouldn’t know (s)he was out of water until it actually happened. When the angler yanked the critter up the into air, the fish would immediately know that something had gone terribly wrong.

I think our situation in modern life is a little bit like that. In our present media-engulfed life, we humans are so totally immersed in electronic media that we would feel disoriented and panicky if we were suddenly jerked out of it—like a fish out of water.

Some might even suffer withdrawals.

Nowadays some social critics among us complain about the dumming-down effects of twitter and facebook, and all that other blahblah googlifief also-ran flimflam that’s floating around in the datafied air of 2018.

Back in the day, during the adolescent phases of my baby boomer generation, people romanticized about the fact that we were the first generation to get raised up with a tv in the living room and therefore a boob-tube mindset. Whoopdee doo that we had pop-culture and instant gratification on the brain instead of the traditional 1-2-3 and a-b-c worldview of previous generations. No wonder we fantasized that we could change the world. We were walking around in the first-ever TV-generated dream world.

Actually, some of us did change the world. Those guys who were mastering their calculus and fortran instead of doping up—they managed to hatch out a totally electronic data tsunami that has since commandeered our attention and maximized our compulsive fascination with constant entertainment distractions and rampant twitt-faced narcissism.

Along with some real information, of course. There’s always both bad and good in any changes that are gonna come.

A  generation before us in the timeline, it was another set of emergent media wonders that were transforming the world of the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Our parents’ generation also grew up with a revolutionary media box in the living room and the dashboard—radio. They had Roosevelt’s fireside chats, Glenn Miller, Amos n’ Andy,  and Orson Wells’ terribly realistic radio depiction of us being invaded by extraterrestrial aliens.

But radio was no TV. Radio was about hearing. TV was like a whole new, artificial world of hearing AND seeing.

The rate of change, accelerating in the TV age, has exponentially accelerated and intensified with the coming of the electr(on)ic internet, 21st-century version.

A few years ago, I undertook a writing project to express some of the angst of the boomer generation that I grew up in.

Because I had graduated from high school and then entered college in 1969, my novel, King of Soul,  turned out to be mainly about the elephant-in-the-room issue of my g -generation’s historical  era—the Vietnam war.

But that war was far from being the only issue that we Americans had to deal with.

LittleRock

In struggling to depict—and even to somehow reconcile—the great divide between them that went and us who did not go to Vietnam, I embarked on a research project to learn how the Vietnam war had started and how it escalated to become such an overarching generational crisis. My g-generation was torn apart because of what all took place over there as a result of our tragic illusion.  We thought we could, with our high-tech way of doing things, show a country of undeveloped farmers how to expel the communists.

We learned a very hard lesson. It was tragic, what happened.

While the world had worked a certain way during the Big War, when we ran the Nazis back into their holes, something had sure as hell changed by the 1960’s.

The old tactics of massive military push against jungle guerrillas did not work.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the kids didn’t wanna have to go over there and do Lyndon’s dirty work.

The anti-war movement’s seemingly sudden organizational strength in 1967 was no mere happenstance. Those activists who devised a widespread effective resistance against the war had learned the hard facts of life from a previous protest movement—the Civil Rights movement.

It took a while for the anti-war movement to get its act together. But when they finally did, it was because of a hard lesson that had been learned by black folks down in dixie.

In the Freedom Summer of 1964, a widespread collection of honky activist youth suddenly showed up down in the Segregated South to help the black folk get organized for voting and organizing real societal change. There in the historical shadow of the old defeated, slave-slappin’ South, wide-eyed yankee students got a fierce reality check. Their rose-colored glasses were left broken on the blood-stained grounds of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, when they saw what violence and oppression the racist Establishment was inflicting on people of color.

Right here in Amerika, it was. Land of the free? and home of the brave!

A wake-up call it was. Based on what them wide-eyed college kids from up Nawth encountered when they got down here, they got a severe reality check. Stopping the war in Vietnam  would be no walk in the park. There was bad shit going down right here in the good ole USA, just like in the rice paddies of Vietnam.

If the peaceniks wanted to get us out of Vietnam, they would have to get organized, and maybe even pick up some heavier-duty tactics . . . civil disobedience.

Meanwhile, there were a few blacks who were doing alright. Sam Cooke was one of them.

During the early 1960’s, Sam was a very successful singer-songwriter. Most of his tunes were soulishly romantic and swingy. He had a knack of finding the best in everything he wrote about. With an admirable optimism that shone forth in all his song-work, Sam managed somehow to spread good will and positive attitude everywhere he went, in spite of all the tough changes that were going down.

Some may have thought Sam to be an uncle tom, because he didn’t get angry.

But Sam Cooke—even though he celebrated optimism and good attitude—was no uncle tom.

He was not a “house nigga.”

Here’s a song that expresses Sam’s feeling about the societal changes that he felt needed to happen in the USA in the mid-1960’s.  After his death in 1964, this composition was released posthumously on the B-side of a single record called Shake, and also on an album by the same name.

Here’s the tune, A Change Is Gonna Come:

     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEBlaMOmKV4

And here’s my version:

    Sam’s Change Is Gonna Come

As we geezers have seen in our lifetime, change did indeed come.

But some things will remain the same.

Here’s a truth that always remains: Change is gonna come, like it or not.

When it does, may the change be with you, and . . . may you be with the change, if it is good.

If it’s not good, go listen to some of Sam’s old hit songs and get an attitude adjustment. Maybe you can learn to deal with it as he did—with a good attitude.

King of Soul

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Give me America

April 22, 2018

Give me America anyday because

I hear America bringing

politics gone mad

into process.

Just give it to me:

America.

Give me America anyday because

I see America clinging

to an old notion

of liberty.

BlkPanthr

Give me America anyday because

I still feel America flinging

the deadends of malice

into arcs of goodwill.

Give me America anyday because

I know America’s still singing

an old song, just with

a new beat.

BlkViolin

You can’t beat

America.

ElecCar

Give me America anyday because

I can sight America winging

its way o’er terrains of pain

and strife.

It’s just life, y’all

to have to put up with

this stuff.

This stuff that’s goin’ down now:

them with their their guns and butter

vs. them with their lgbt muttering—

just give me America, you guys!

ChicFila

Give me America anyday because

I feel America clinging

to hope and justice

and even God

is still with us,

y’all.

Heroic

King of Soul

A simple act of kindness goes a long way

June 12, 2017

“Encountering human kindness such as that became the highlights of my otherwise dreary existence.”

These words were spoken by a man who had spent eleven years imprisoned in a Stalin-era Russian gulag. The act of kindness of which he speaks was something very small, but very important. In 1953, a young woman doctor who was working in the prison smuggled in a blank postcard, then passed it secretly to a prisoner, Roland Gottlieb, so that he could send a message beyond the prison walls to his wife and three daughters.

By that time in 1953, Roland’s wife, Ruth, had already spent more than eight years waiting for her husband to be released from the political prison. During those years she didn’t even know if he was alive or dead. It was a very long period of terrible anguish for her and for their  three daughters, as they lived from day to day wondering where the hell  Poppa was, or if they’d ever see him again.

Hell on earth it must have been for them, and for him.

For Poppa, who endured not only cruelties, near starvation, physical abuse and the frigid Siberian weather, the worst part was not knowing anything about his family, not knowing where they had ended up after he was taken prisoner by the Russian army in Bulgaria, not knowing if the girls even knew what had become of him, not knowing if he would live to ever see them again, not knowing anything except the day-to-day hell-on-earth of captivity in Stalin’s gulag.

Then one day a brave doctor’s willingness to risk her own career and safety made it possible for Roland to at least send a few words–a long-overdue update– about his location and condition (alive) to his loved ones.

Here’s a cover pic of Ruth, to whom the secret postcard was addressed, and to whom the card was delivered, four months after it was mailed.

LivesDiv

  https://www.amazon.com/Lives-Divided-family-apart-Russian/dp/1490404236

You can read more about this long ordeal of separation in Birgitta Gottlieb McGalliard’s autobiographical memoir, Lives Damaged. It’s a good book about the first eleven years of her life, which happened to be the same eleven years that her father was in prison, simply because he was (doing his duty as a German diplomat protecting war refugees)  in the wrong place (Sofia, Hungary) at the wrong time (when the Russian army took over the place) in 1944.

Birgitta was born a few months after her father was hauled to a Soviet prison in Siberia. She never even saw her father, never even touched him, until she was eleven years old. And when she did finally see him, and hug him, and at last get to talk to him and get to know him, she asked him some questions about the bad people he had encountered  in prison. And he spoke to her and to the family about the bad people there, some of them prisoners and some who were staffers. But then he said:

“Just as these blatnois were bad, I found equally many if not more ‘good’ Russians, like the young female doctor who took pity on me when I was in the punishment camp after the Vorkuta Revolt in 1953, where writing was strictly prohibited. She smuggled a postcard to me so that I could write home. She could have been severely punished if she hand been caught. If it hadn’t been for her kindness, you never would have received that first postcard from me.”

That “first postcard,” when it finally was delivered, was a major milestone, a turning point in the life of their family.

That major milestone was made possible by a very small, seemingly insignificant act of smuggling a postcard in and out of the prison, and yet . . .

Later, after his release in 1954, looking back on it and trying to capture an explanation of it all for his daughters, Roland Gottlieb said:

“Encountering human kindness such as that became the highlights of my otherwise dreary existence.”

Kindness stands out. Its effects go far beyond the pale.

The milk of human kindness–it goes a long way toward the healing of the nations, and the healing of people whose suffering is a consequence of the injustice and evil that men do to each other throughout history. A brave doctor’s small act of postcard benevolence, along with a few other small deeds like it, is what  enabled the prisoner to hang on to a thin thread of hope. It’s what he remembered more vividly than anything else about what happened in his eleven-year gulag nightmare: Kindness from a brave soul whose courage to act enabled him to cross a bridge from perpetual discouragement to newfound hope.

It’s no wonder that Paul, the 1st-century itinerant Christian messenger, included kindness in his lists of the “fruits” of our Creator’s Holy Spirit.

Kindness. You can beat it, but you can’t defeat it.

Smoke

It’s the Contest

August 13, 2016

TheContest

The destroyer is a spirit, a corrupted zeitgeist.

But in spite of his apparent worldwide heist,

he is no christ.

He’s eloquent in spreading fear

while whispering in your ear.

She slides in on a sled of doubt

chewing up our courage, then spitting it out.

He serves up fodder for defeat;

she slices delectable discouragement for meat.

The destroyer fastens our attention

on cultivating nervous tension.

He’s obsessive with dismay;

she casts hope and care away.

They display

excrutiatingly excellent excuses

to focus on all those world-driven abuses

for which we have no productive uses

so that accomplishments can be decimated,

achievements aggravated

and defeat elevated

to a sordid art form

so as to blot out our war-torn

mission

as if by atomic fission.

Hey, they say,

it’s all going to blow someday,

maybe the big one even comes today.

The destroyer will habitually say

conspiracy is the order of the day,

and rational order has been put down

as we’re all just fooling’ around.

She says decency went out with the tide,

been cast aside,

and integrity is dead

and that we should just party down instead

because the whole damn system is fixed

for sure, bewitched

and our course cannot be switched

cuz life’s a bitch,

not a beach.

So don’t bother to reach

out.

Just glory in the art of pout.

We’ll make of complaint an art form

and criticism a craft, to adorn

our death-wish thanatos

with exquisite, tragic loss.

On the other hand

as far as the east is from the west,

in spite of all that, we could be supremely blessed.

The comforter says you can do this;

your arrow is not destined to always miss.

If the system is rigged what does it matter;

your hopes and dreams aren’t doomed to splatter

on the mean streets of this world

because the true kingdom is not of this world;

it displays a flag unfurled,

that flutters in our heart

urging us to start

a work, an art

apart

to begin anew

a place for me and you

a place in the son

no matter what the gun

has done

to make us turn and run

from the challenges of this screwed-up life.

We can overcome and defeat this strife

by faith, by hope, by true love,

bestowed to us from above

if we can allow the destroyer in us to be crucified.

On a cross of sacrifice, that enemy has died,

and to its own defeat is tied.

But I’m not tied to it;

they can’t make you do it.

Death doesn’t have to overcome me, nor defeat you;

I tell you true.

We shall rise above it all

if you can hear the call

of resurrected victory

for you and me:

He’s signaling from the other side

if you can resist the tide

of death-wish thanatos

and the destroyer’s proposed eternal loss.

You may hear otherwise,

but death itself in the end just dies.

Selah.

Traveler’s Rest

The Lady is at Work

June 4, 2016

LadyWork

She heard America singing;

through two centuries’ labors they came a-ringing–

the song and the opus of bringing

a newborn project in a newfound world

‘neath a loud stripey flag ‘t’was unfurled.

From ship to wagon to cart to railroads,

sending out them precious mother-lode payloads

over seas and lands and bridges and field rows–

he hauled ’em in, she bailed ’em out

through highways and byways they sent forth the shout.

Up with the work! and down with the grit

she dug and he hammered; she welded; he shipped it.

Turn up the earth, mine and weld and wield it ’til it fit–

a new land, a new time, new way of doin’

rolling on wheels where used to be horsehoin’.

They rolled up on the far edge of our vast continent,

on the heels of a gold rush at the shore of containment.

Along came the Okies, then Hollywood raiment–

not bein’ done yet, we slid into Silicon valley,

so much bigger and brighter than the old yankee alley.

Now what’s up with that and where do we go from here–

let bruthas and sistahs step to the music we hear

enduring the pain, dodging the rain, overcoming the fear,

we gotta discover what to do to pick up the slack

so we do not regress, do not turn back.

Maybe we will and maybe we will not–

forge a way past our lethargy, this entitlement and rot

what it is we got to do I know not what,

might have to grab that destiny from some ogre or grinch.

Let’s get this ship turnin’–hand me that wrench!

Glass half-Full

Through the Looking Glass Gate of 1968

June 13, 2015

It was many, many years ago today

Sergeant Pepper thought he taught the band to play.

We been goin’ in n’ outa style,

‘though we’ve traveled now for many a mile.

Yes, ‘T’was many and many a year ago,

and whose years these were I think I know,

’cause I was born and raised in the Way down south;

Oh, Sweet potato pie and shut my mouth!

Meanwhile, suddenly down in Memphis

the tenser had gone to tensest

when the Man who was a Mountain said,

as though he were already dead:

I may not get there with you;

I may not get there with you,

and then suddenly he’s gone where

I know he found a stair

way to heaven.

Film at eleven,

they said.

But He was already dead.

 

So then we woke up from the dream

of marmalade pie and soured cream

‘T’was in that summer I hear them sayin,

while America was frayin’:

Hell no! We won’t go.

Bring your Democratic ass up to Chicago!

But we were agonizin’

while some bad moon was a-risin’.

I can’t go there, I say I say.

Me gots to work; me gots to stay,

so I’ll meet you there in fourscore and seven.

Therefore, lest I catch that same stairway to heaven,

and I feel my engines revvin’,

I think I’ll just skip the part about film at eleven.

But then we said,

when even Bobby too was dead

Hell, just lock the door and throw away the key;

Jest let us go then, you and me.

Let us give up hope

’cause we can’t any longer cope.

Let us lock the door and throw away the key,

me and thee, and them out there makes three.

But hey! I thought;

lest we all be sold and bought,

if we fall for that that old cynic’s tune

just gag me with a spoon!

Back at the ranch, meanwhile,

and suddenly she’s there at the turnstile.

We feel the women come and go;

we wonder why but we don’t know.

They look for Michelangelo

but then the men don’t show.

They went to where the flowers go

while Sergeant Pepper puts on his show.

 

Maybe I didn’t know then what I don’t know now,

so I thought I’d try to work it out somehow,

until I found myself caught up in a Fall,

and suddenly I caught it all.

So we wrote it all off as a loss,

when we hung it, later, on a damned old cross.

I’m sorry to burst you bubble;

but thanks for all our trouble.

 

Glass half-Full

Life way down deep

April 3, 2015

The life was new.

The life was hidden, withdrawn, but stirring beneath the surface

of man, restless

feeling incomplete, as if he were only half

of something and where pray tell is

the other half.

Oh but the life

the whippersnappin’ life was young and foolish, darting out in

spurts, random, irresponsibly.

Lonely.

The life was at a loss.

Meanwhile,

the wise was keeping vigil, watching protectively, counseling gently

in the stirring of the wind:

Wait. Focus. Control yourself. Learn. Prepare. Use what you’ve got.

Use.

Not abuse.

Love.

Not shove.

Love.

Not thrust.

Trust.

Don’t throw it on the ground;

don’t cast it out when you’re in town.

Find a place that’s safe and sound

and slightly round.

There is a place for you if you will seek, if you will

wait upon her, ‘though mishaps there may be,

‘though dark days you will see.

Destiny, providentially so-to-speak, whispers

in those dark hours of the night,

but also in the clarity of the bright light

and in the very horned beastly midst of your fight

for peace of mind, and fulfillment,

self-actualization, what we use to call

holiness.

Project not yourself into any old hole; cast not your pearl

to front,  nor to rear.

You, my precious life, are too dear

to sputter in the rear.

Oh, wipe away your tear.

Train your sorrow to flow;

direct your milky force to go

into something worthwhile, like . . .

work. I don’t know. Think about it.

Don’t jerk.

Don’t be a jerk,

and please don’t twerk. But rather,

Wait. Watch. Focus. Learn. Prepare. Believe. Use what you’re given.

Be just a little driven

but not obnoxiously so.

Just go

and do the best you can,

and when she comes, your half will become

whole.

Like I said, in not just any hole.

Whole.

For the sake of your soul,

and the soul of them who are to come

when you are done.

 

Glass half-Full

The Poet’s Dream

January 3, 2015

My friend tossed up some interesting thoughts about life and poetry and God-only-knows what he was talking about . . .

lookingforthelongride/nothing new under the sun

His ruminations inspired me, so I wrote this poem, dedicated to my friend, and the search that we embarked upon many years ago:

Let us ride then, you and I

along this way that you ascribe.

We know that we began–you and I,

and all our brethren on this ride–

as squirmy fertilating squirts

in search of pregnant, ripening, love.

We stumbled into ecstasy, but then we find it hurts;

So we sculpt protective nests, with children from above.

Yeah, we cultivate truth and faith along the way,

weeding out the doubt, the sin, the strife.

Cast your bread–our Ancient of Days doth say

upon the passing waters of this life. . .

It will return to you after many days–

all the faith and hope and love we tossed into that stream;

In spite of trouble, pain, and our wicked ways,

we’ll gather love far greater than the Poet’s dream.

Smoke

The Path

April 2, 2013

IMG_0012

After I had passed through the dark time

I came around a bend

and there ahead of me

was a bright path.

Then I knew my Creator

had brought me through,

and there would be goodness ahead.

I could see the light

scattered among those shadowy branches.

I turned and looked behind me,

down at the trail already trod

and knew the brightness

had been there all along,

though the morning fog

had obscured my view.

The light is there as I see it,

and yet it was there when I could not.

Thank God I knew

and now I could go on.

Glass half-Full

The Star

December 24, 2012

There was this unique star,

okay?

And these wise men were expecting it,

and so when they saw the star,

they followed it,

expecting something good.

But when they arrived,

the news of their enquiry fell into the wrong hands,

and some terrible things happened.

But it wasn’t their fault.

And furthermore,

not everything that happened

was terrible.

There was some glorious stuff going on too

in spite of the evil.

There is a lesson in this.

Even wise men

will generate unintended consequences

in this world.

But the star of hope still shines.

And the woman with child

is still to be treasured

and protected

in this precious life

no matter what happens

no matter who goes crazy and kills people.

Glass half-Full