Uplifted by Bad News

singer healing - February 4, 2013m

One recent morning, tired of all the disappointing news on the radio…

…I decided to distract myself with some music…

…with the songs of Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie*.

But halfway through the album, I suddenly realized I was still listening to bad news—some very bad news indeed!

Yet I enjoyed these songs of poverty, of isolation, of prejudice, of brutality, of manipulative deception by the powers-that-be…

Though many of these songs were as grim as the news coming from the radio, I found them uplifting!

Through some wonderful alchemy, such songs help me to come to terms with the pain of this life—and with my frustration at the unjustness of that pain…

So then, do the songs of Woody Guthrie and Huddie Ledbetter belong in our new mythology?

Well, they don’t ask us to contemplate God, or to marvel at the deeper mysteries of this Universe.  Nor do their rhythms transport us into a different state of consciousness in which we lose all sense of self…

For that matter, songs of protest tend to divide the human race into two groups—into the “haves” and the “have-nots“.

However, our religious texts do confront us with the question of social injustice…

…and like any religious text, these songs address human suffering…

They allow us to grieve, they invite us to grieve together—sometimes to grieve even as we smile at their melody and clever lines…

The songs of Guthrie and Lead Belly tell us what we already know: justice and sanity are often in short supply on this Earth…

…but they help make that knowledge bearable by adding this bit of encouragement: we’ll persevere, we’ll get by.  We’re that strong.

I think that’s part of their healing magic.

Fortunately, we have many other sources of healing song.  Our poets, our painters, our filmmakers, our great composers and jazz players also know a healing alchemy—they give us a song of the spirit…

I can’t say which ones belong in our new mythology…

…I only hope we won’t be too exclusive—won‘t limit our definition of “spiritual” too severely…

If something takes us to a better place, a higher place, then why not let it?

(* The album is Folkways: A Vision Shared — A Tribute to Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly.  Huddie Ledbetter wrote his well-known moniker as two words—as “Lead Belly”—so that’s what I’m using here.)

© 2013, Michael R. Patton
dreaming steps


About Michael Patton

I am a poet, novelist, and fabulist...A new mythologist, a peace miller, a dream worker...I don't qualify as an illustrator or photographer--I just "make pictures"...I have thirteen books available at amazon... I currently reside in northwest Arkansas, but have lived and worked all over the United States... I'm self-taught, for the most part--which is like searching for the right door in the dark. It's an on-going process.... I don't want to write MY story, I want OUR story, so that's what I'm studying: the human story: past, present, future, in its many aspects--including the spiritual. I'm proceeding at a slow crawl.... I don't see the inner world and outer world as separate. By learning about myself, I learn about others, I learn about my world.... Conversely, as I struggle to understand what I see OUT THERE, I learn about myself.... But to be clear: I don't claim any special understanding. I'm still purblind, still only half-awake.... After frustrating experience with the publisher of my first novel, I've published on my own, beginning with e-books, with plans to move into print and audio. Even video.... Along with a second novel, I've now published eight books of poetry. Each poetry book focuses on a theme. For instance, the collection GLORIOUS TEDIOUS TRANSFORMATION is about the slow difficult wonderful process of change.... In that book, as with all my work, I try to be accessible to a general audience, while also striving to achieve a certain literary quality.
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