Although my spirits are flagging due to the shorter days and longer nights of autumn in New England, I want to keep a small flame of optimism alight.
So this post is dedicated to the political process unfolding here in these currently-not-very-united United States of America.
I have included a song I co-wrote several years ago called “Let The Day Unfold.”
It started life as a verse/chorus sketch which guitarist/songwriter Scott Kowalik shared with pianist/songwriter Javier Pico.
I, Scott, Javier, and two other people — Robert M. Brown and Alan Najarian — collaborated for three years in an original rock band called CUE when we were in our twenties.
Each of us moved on to different undertakings (including lawyer, real estate developer, and non-profit arts administrator) but all of us have kept music in our lives in one way or another.
And our musical paths continue to overlap every now and then — such as when I visited Javier, and he shared with me this song sketch which Scott had shared with him.
If my memory serves me Javier gave me chords + words for the chorus as well as some chords + some lyrics for a verse. I expanded the verse structure and wrote several more verse lyrics. I wish I had a copy of what Javier originally gave to me for comparison with my finished products…
The version at the beginning of this blog post is a GarageBand draft to which a long-time collaborator, Doug Hammer, added some string parts. He also helped me sample a recording of one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s most famous speeches which I included during an instrumental break.
I wrote a blog post which featured Doug — who is a gifted pianist, composer, and engineer/producer — a couple of years ago.
I remain very discouraged that war continues to be such a huge part of life on planet earth.
Our country has been at war off and on for generations.
Many of us — who have not experienced war first-hand — live in a privileged bubble of ignorance and denial.
Yet every day brave women and men sign up to defend their country’s values, borders, and culture.
This child, however, did not sign up to be part of an armed conflict…
Who knows what he will choose to do with his life when he grows up…
Deep breath in.
Deep breath out.
And so our wars continue here on planet earth…
I often wonder how making music — which seems very modest and inconsequential compared with the bravery and sacrifice and horror and trauma and chaos of war — fits into the larger equations of life on planet earth.
In an ideal world, music brings people together.
Yet it can also — such as George M. Cohan’s song “Over There” during WWI and again during WWII — inspire people to enlist in order to wage war.
And I have read about soldiers in Afghanistan playing certain songs to lift their spirits and boost their resolve while they are deployed.
I know music lifts my spirits on a daily basis.
But it seems to pale in importance when I reflect upon things like genocide…
Another thing I often ponder is the difference between “either/or” and “both/and.”
Every day I find myself slipping into an either/or mindset — it’s us or them… I’m completely right and someone else is completely wrong… it’s my way or the highway, etc.
“Either/or” is a mindset which often leads to conflict… or worse.
“Both/and” is a mindset which can lead to listening.
To honoring the paradoxes and contradictions of life.
I watched another Democratic presidential debate this week — and attempted to remain open to as many different opinions and perspectives and visions and explanations as I could manage.
I do feel some optimism when I see the range of candidates.
I’ve been giving small amounts of money each month to several of them.
I’m excited that many women are running for president.
And people of color.
With some thought-provoking ideas.
I am also amazed that an un-closeted, married gay man is in the race.
Some candidates are dreaming bigger than others.
And I am grateful for that.
When our country collapsed into a huge economic depression ninety years ago, we elected a president with big dreams.
And he managed to convert many of those big dreams into action — despite having significant personal health challenges.
I love that he — a man living with paralysis due to polio (or perhaps undiagnosed Guillain-Barre syndrome – an autoimmune neuropathy) uses the word “paralyzes” in his famous speech about fear.
“Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
I find solace and take comfort in the conviction in FDR’s voice — ringing across the decades thanks to the magic of digital zeros and ones.
I also find solace and comfort and inspiration in many of the new voices speaking up here on planet earth.
I also love finding new voices and kindred spirits among my fellow bloggers on WordPress.
Thank you to Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons for the images I have used in this blog post.
Thank you to Scott, Javier, Alan, Robert, and Doug for sharing a love of music over many years.
And thank YOU for reading and listening to yet another blog post!
Very thoughtful. Powerful images. I watched a documentary about the Roosevelts recently – even allowing for a certain bias, I hadn’t realised the extent of his greatness and vision beyond WW2.
My education was so poor that I used to wonder who was on our dime (answer FDR…) Until I wrote this blog post, I hadn’t known how old he was when he became paralyzed (age 39) or that most of his political successes (governor of New York and then president of the USA) transpired AFTER he could no longer walk unassisted. So much to learn (and re-learn) on this planet! That’s one reason I enjoy your blog so much. THANK YOU for reading and listening.
Our world is a mess, but your music is a beautiful ray of hope. Lovely!
Thank you for listening and reading, Cindy. Thanks goodness for hope. Sometimes only a tiny grain of hope is enough to keep up getting up out of bed in the morning…
As I was reading this and listening to your music, the sun was rising. There’s a pink streak across the sky and a crescent moon. It makes me think of Benjamin Franklin’s quote at the end of the Constitutional Convention about whether the sun carved on the President’s chair was rising or setting, and how now he thought it was rising. These days, I’m not so sure. But here’s to those who speak out with truth (and give us solace with music and art)–and let’s hope for rising suns. Thank you for giving me much to ponder.
Have you read this: https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/05/01/jfk-amherst-speech/
Thank you for reading/listening AND for referring me to the JFK speech. He and his wife certainly gave the arts a lot of respect during their time in the White House. I learned when reading biographies about Judy Garland (in order to put together a one-hour program of music written for or strongly associated with her) that she and JFK were friends. She visited the Kennedy family on Cape Cod, and they spoke a fair amount on the phone when he was president, with him sometimes asking her to sing a bit of “Over The Rainbow.”
Oh, that’s cool. I didn’t know that.
Glad to re-read the brainpickings link this morning! What a different presidency! “What counts is the way power is used — whether with swagger and contempt, or with prudence, discipline and magnanimity. What counts is the purpose for which power is used — whether for aggrandizement or for liberation. “It is excellent,” Shakespeare said, “to have a giant’s strength; but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant.”” Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
An inspiring post, thank you Will. Sometimes it’s hard for those of us observing the US from afar not to believe that there are no decent Americans left. When I read the reactions to the current hearings about DT’s shenanigan’s it’s hard not to despair at the way truth tellers are verbally abused. You, and several other bloggers I follow, are a breath of fresh air and hope.
Yes. We are living in (at least) two very different narratives here in the USA these days…
Never underestimate the power of music. Beautiful post, Will!
Thank you for reading and listening and offering positive feedback, Jennie. I have friends visiting from Toronto this weekend. The husband is, among many things, a wonderful woodworker who took a teacher training course over a decade ago so that he could become a high school woodworking teacher. A few years ago I gave his wife a ukulele for her birthday, which inspired HIM to start building them at school… which has led to more and more students (most of them immigrants from South Asia, the Caribbean, and other countries/cultures) to learn how to build their own ukuleles. So music can connect us in mysterious and unexpected ways… May your spirits remain buoyant on yet another grey and rainy November day here in New England.
Thank you for my best Christmas present.
You are very, very welcome. I love visiting different parts of the planet via the beautiful photos on your blog!
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