Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Janis Joplin: Me and Bobby McGee (1970)


Me and Bobby McGee, sung by Janis Joplin [1943–1970] in her unmistakable and undeniable way. The song was written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster in 1969; it is the second track on side two of the album, Pearl (1971). Without question, this simple song means something to me, having first heard it as an adolescent when it came on the airwaves in 1971. How does one live? Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. To be truly free is to be out of bondage, without chains of any kind. It is in the ideal, to be beholden to no man, at least not for any material goods. Silly youthful idealism? Perhaps. Or not at all. Many have lost their way. It is true that I was a young “old soul.” Now I am an old “old soul” living with the same unanswered questions, still searching for the essence of justice and peace, a strong unmet desire for the “living water.” Soul is about the spirit, the opposite of materialism, which finds a way to invade and suffuse every living space, often invited in under the most friendly terms, including, sadly, many houses of worship. It is not a surprise that this song brings to mind the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:3). 
Via: Youtube

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Keith Green: Create in Me a Clean Heart (1984)

Godly Relationships

“For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.”
1 Kings 15:5

Keith Green: Create in Me a Clean Heart is the last track of the posthumously released albom, Jesus Commands Us to Go!, released in 1984.

Keith Green [1953–1982] was a Jewish believer in Jesus. or in other words a Jewish Christian, an idea that today still baffles people on both sides of the divide, but not so nearly 2,000 years ago. The song’s birthright are the psalms of King David, in particular Psalm 51, a penitential psalm seeking from God mercy and grace for his sin in the matter of Uriah. (The song’s title comes from Psalm 51:10.) Sin, in biblical language, is a human act that separates us from God; sin is supposed to remind us of our need for God. that we can’t be righteous without Him. Hence this prayer song of repentance. Ever since I could remember, I have had a belief in God, living and walking through periods of strong faith and also of diminished faith and doubt, notably in the last decade, which generally has been a long dark night of the soul, full of trials and tribulations. Truly, I can say that it has not been an easy faith or an easy road, and, yet, I continue on it while not fully understanding it all. I am persuaded now that there has to be a better way.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Festival of Freedom (2019)

Festival of Freedom & Hope: Our seder table last night before our family sat down to celebrate Passover. Like Jews worldwide, we retold the Exodus story and had a large festive meal, discussing three things: the passover offering (Paschal lamb), matzah (unleavened bread) and maror (bitter herbs). The central idea of this holiday is to rid ourselves of anything that enslaves us, of anything that keeps us from being who we are meant to be; freedom is the end game. With this in mind, we give thanks to God.
Credit: ©2019. Perry J. Greenbaum

Happy Passover to my Jewish friends & neighbours; and Happy Easter to my Christian friends & neighbours. Both holidays are central to the narrative and history of western Judeo-Christian civilization; both holidays show God working in the lives of the faithful, speaking of liberation, hope and love. It is no surprise then that Jesus of Nazareth, born a Jew, celebrated a Passover meal (“the last supper”) in Jerusalem (likely on Wednesday 1 April 33 CE), for the last time, two days before his death, by crucifixion (likely on 14 Nisan or Friday 3 April 33 CE). Despite the scholarly debates on the exact date of Jesus’ death, one can agree that the two holidays are linked by history and by this historical figure.

It is noteworthy that early Christians, who were chiefly if not all Jews, considered Jesus as not only the promised Messiah but also as the Passover offering (the Korban Pesakha concept dating to the Jewish Exodus; see the book of Exodus, Chapter 12), who by his willing act freed mankind from the bondages of sin, judgment, condemnation and death. Such is, when one considers it and believes it, the greatest freedom one could ever desire. A good many Jews of the late Second Temple period still had an understanding of this redemptive aspect of Judaism.

Then came a changing and defining moment in Judaism—the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Nothing would remain the same; and only later, through a progression of events (occurring over a period of decades after the Temple’s destruction), would Second Temple Judaism separate into the two religions that we know today as Judaism and Christianity. That being said, the Jewish roots of Christianity are important, essential I would add, to have a fuller understanding of the core message of redemption and liberation. The story of Passover is important if one wants to understand the story of Easter.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Martin Luther King Jr: Nobel Peace Prize Speech (1964)


Martin Luther King Jr [1929–1968]: Nobel Peace Prize Speech in Oslo, Norway, on December 10, 1964. 

From his speech, consider this portion:
I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. “And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.” I still believe that We Shall overcome!
Is there anything in this speech that is offensive? Au contraire mes amies. Would anyone decent deny dignity, equality and freedom to anyone? This seems like a reasonable request to a nation that speaks often of liberty. In keeping with this ethos, I find this speech to be commendable and spoken in the spirit of truth and justice, noting with approval the prophetic words quoted from the biblical books of Micah and Isaiah, pointing to a future messianic age.  The full text of the speech can be found [here].

Happy Passover to everyone celebrating this festival of freedom.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Zombies: Time of the Season (1968)

Time of the Season by the Zombies [1962–1967], a British rock band, was  recorded for their 1968 album Odessey and Oracle (it is the last of 12 tracks). It is sung by Colin Blunstone. Written by keyboard player Rod Argent, it was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, in London, in August 1967.

This was the season of peace and love, of hippies, of the sexual revolution, of changing mores and of changing morals; at least such was the case for many young persons in their late teens and early twenties, post high school. I was only 10, so I was not so much a part of it as an observer. I did, however, enjoy the music from a safe distance, thus avoiding the pitfalls of the sexual revolution and much of the dark overtones of despair and alienation, which planted the seeds of the Me Generation—it and its many mutations are in full bloom today. I post this as an example of the musical influences of my generation, the Baby Boomers [people born between 1946 and 1964], although I was by all accounts at the tail end of it all. In school, I was never considered cool or part of any popular group, although I always had friends. I am a spiritual person,a seeker of truth, and have always seemed to walk my own way in pursuit of such important and fundamental existential truths.  Seek with a sincere heart; seek the truth; seek and you shall find.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Emerson, Lake & Palmer: C’est La Vie (1977)

Emerson, Lake & Palmer: C’est La Vie performed in Montreal at the Olympic Stadium on August 26, 1977.
The song, written by Greg Lake and Peter Sinfield, is the second track on side of the double album, Works Volume 1, the band's fifth studio album, which was released on March 17, 1977. The album was recorded at EMI Studios in Paris. This was more than 40 years ago. What remains is the French feel of nostalgie that this song evokes, about wandering, loss, and resignation that many feel after a certain age. Some would assert that this is a betrayal of confidence in the “let’s get ahead club.” This, the abandonment of a bad idea, is not necessarily a worrisome thing, although there are always nagging doubts being whispered in your ear. Yet, such detours are freeing, leading to the loss of the fear of judgment and of failure, an enemy of humanity, yet a constant companion and a tiresome and a heavy burden that over the decades becomes harder to bear. There is something better, something more eternal to gain, in walking a far different path. It’s not a matter in being first but in finishing the race.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

My Backyard: Waiting for Spring (2019)


It has been a long winter, yet all winters in Canada are long, and some seem/are longer than others. How does one measure or take account of such things? There is always photographs to support an assertion or two, so in support of this effort at finding truth, here is a photographic record of my backyard for the third month of this year, and the changes it has undergone as winter turned into spring. Spring officially arrived at 5:58 p.m. on March 20th. It is said that Spring is about Hope and hope springs eternal, as Alexander Pope writes in his poem, An Essay on Man (1733–1734). Spring is also when many birds return, and when you hear their calls of life. So wonderful.

March 14, 2019: The yard is still snow covered and the steps have visible ice. Temperatures have not sufficiently risen to do a good job of melting the snow, let alone warming the ground so it softens.
Courtesy: ©2019. Perry J. Greenbaum

March 20, 2019: In the morning, before the official arrival of Spring at 5:58 p.m. The steps are almost clear of snow and ice. The far end of the yard is showing patches of grass, sprung free by the  warming and thawing rays of sunlight.
Courtesy: ©2019. Perry J. Greenbaum

March 26, 2019: The grass is all but free of snow and ice, and all that remains evident of winter is the patch of ice on our small patio.
Courtesy: ©2019. Perry J. Greenbaum

April 3, 2019: Only a small patch of snow remains, yet the ground is still hard and will likely remain so for a few more weeks, until the temperature remains well above freezing—at least 15°C (60°F) for a week or so.
Courtesy: ©2019. Perry J. Greenbaum

Between now and the end of April, my experience tells me that it will slowly become more spring-like, But now we see that it is only the end of winter here in Canada, and is an in-between period before the evidence of spring finally manifests. My backyard has seen snow and ice pellets the last week, not unexpected or uncommon events for Canada. Still, impatience takes hold as it battles hope.

Waiting is hard when one expects something good to happen, but such is still more bearable than having no expectation of the occurrence of such an event. Ever. Never. Forever. Humans are forever fickle and forgetful; was it not the same last year and the year before that, and so on? And on. One of Spring’s welcome signs is the increase in the sightings of birds and the hearings of their songs. Music to my ears. And my backyard welcome it too.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Hibernating For The Winter (2019)


An Early January Morning in Maple: I have decided to take a long break from this blog, and will hibernate so to speak, for the rest of the winter. I hope to recharge and gain some needed energy as well as a renewed sense of things. If all goes to plan, I will return in the spring, which in Toronto can be anytime from mid- to late April. I wish you a good and pleasant start to the new year of 2019. May it bring only good news, good health and good prosperity.
Photo Credit: ©2019. Perry J. Greenbaum

Monday, January 7, 2019

A Little Freedom is No Easy Matter


“Experience is the teacher of all things,”
Julius Caesar, De Bello Civili (c. 40 BCE) 

An article (“The Philosopher Redefining Equality;” January 7, 2009) by Nathan Heller in The New Yorker writes about the ethics of freedom in America, and how one philosopher—Elizabeth Anderson, chair of the University of Michigan’s department of philosophy—approaches it as thus:

To be truly free, in Anderson’s assessment, members of a society had to be able to function as human beings (requiring food, shelter, medical care), to participate in production (education, fair-value pay, entrepreneurial opportunity), to execute their role as citizens (freedom to speak and to vote), and to move through civil society (parks, restaurants, workplaces, markets, and all the rest). Egalitarians should focus policy attention on areas where that order had broken down. Being homeless was an unfree condition by all counts; thus, it was incumbent on a free society to remedy that problem. A quadriplegic adult was blocked from civil society if buildings weren’t required to have ramps. Anderson’s democratic model shifted the remit of egalitarianism from the idea of equalizing wealth to the idea that people should be equally free, regardless of their differences. A society in which everyone had the same material benefits could still be unequal, in this crucial sense; democratic equality, being predicated on equal respect, wasn’t something you could simply tax into existence. “People, not nature, are responsible for turning the natural diversity of human beings into oppressive hierarchies,” Anderson wrote.
Such is the case today with oppressive hierarchies the norm everywhere. Few people are truly free, a result of human ingenuity that has made less people free so that a few can be on top of the pyramid. Freedom and equality are interdependent. It is to a large degree about removing barriers, obstacles if you will, to personal freedom and fulfillment. In the language of everyday life, it is about treating people with dignity and respect. It is to say that someone with a low-paying profession or no profession or is disabled is still valued as a human being. It is to use the language of humaneness.

Applying such an approach, especially in language, will take some rethinking in America, in a nation where money is (almost) everything, most notably in the areas of influence and power, and how people are viewed and valued. Yet we are far away from such an achievement. For even on the most basic level of financial and economic measurement , I doubt that this will ever change much, though there will be some poor attempts, no doubt to improve the lot of those at the bottom with expected loud resistance from those at the top, believing that too much has already been done (sharing is a foreign concept), and that those on the bottom “ought to pull themselves up by the bootstraps,” a truly nonsensical expression.

There might be minimal success, which I think is better than none, but America can never become such a nation—under current conditions—chiefly because “the order has broken down.” This includes the soul of the nation. There is no will or desire or actual belief to really fix it (e.g., increase taxes on the rich, build housing for the homeless, ensure free education, ensure universal healthcare, etc.)—all areas which I have written about over the years. None of it is remotely happening in America. In America, it is chiefly about ensuring that money keeps rising to the top for the few. Period. This is not a cynical expression but one of human observation.

This is why I think, after reading this article, that Prof. Anderson might mean well,and might be on to something good and fruitful to the benefit of humanity, but I doubt that she (and her husband), who probably make a nice middle-to upper-class living, would know through experience how those on the bottom live and suffer their humanly appointed fates. More often than not such fates are undeserved, unwelcomed and unmerited. This is also an important point that is too often easily ignored or smoothed over for fear of inviting feelings of uneasiness.

If freedom is hard to obtain, then how much importance it is given by the individual is how important it becomes in their lived lives. In the end, is that not how all people take stock of their lives? Is it not through the lens of their collective real-life experiences? A life lived. Even if you can agree that freedom begins in the mind, it is hard to deny the cumulative effects of a long life of struggle, notably if one considers and eventually views the struggle (for freedom) as futile or inconsequential. The opposite, however, can also be true, namely, that the struggle was necessary and noble.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Exile’s Return: Then and Now

Good Books

Exile’s Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s (1934) by Malcolm Cowley. “They had silently abandoned the creed that had guided and sustained them on their long pilgrimage abroad. The religion of art was dead, not only in spirit and inner logic, but this time in practice also. Its saints were either being neglected, or else, like Joyce and Gertrude Stein, they were becoming popular authors, best-sellers in New York, no longer venerated by an esoteric cult. The new young men  weren’t planning to follow in their footsteps” (286).
Photo Credit: ©2019. Perry J. Greenbaum

I have been rereading a book that was part of an American literature course I took some twenty-five years ago. It is Exile’s Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s (1934) by Malcolm Cowley [1898–1989], who was part of that generation of writers who escaped America for Europe, particularly Paris, in search of something genuine and artistic, before returning (as many did) to New York’s Greenwich Village; and while there finding the air thick with a new way of thinking and being.
Worst of all, many writers said, was the hypocrisy that had come to pervade the whole system, with businessmen talking about service when they meant profits, with statements proclaiming their love for the common man while taking orders from Wall Street (and sometimes money from oil operators in little black bags)…(216)
Cowley wrote this in the early 1930s, looking back at the 1920s, and, yet, it rings true today. There are many such similar passages on the failure of the “religion of art” and its attendant beliefs in beauty, truth, etc. to take hold in America, and yet it did have some influence on art and literature, before it itself become compromised by economic interests. To be sure, America (and now most of the world) is defined a great deal by its economic engine, by its monied classes, by its worship of wealth. It is hard to deny this reality, which is what matters most to the powers that be, who view art, literature, beauty and truth as something that can be purchased. Small wonder that America is bedeviled by the same old problems, like poverty, societal alienation and rising inequality. Will the situation be the same in 100 years?