Slyly … August 27, 2012

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Stepping into my motel room a little weary and delirious from an exciting weekend of being around precious humans from Riverdale and New Hudson, I decided to unwind a few minutes before collapsing in totality by watching some television. Does anybody else notice that the accumulation of channels seems to be proportional with the diminishing of possibilities? But I eventually landed on some special about the Ed Sullivan Show in the 1960’s–all the rock stars that appeared on his program. I didn’t watch very long, but I did view an appearance, from back in 1969, of Sly and the Family Stone.

Promotional photo of Sly & the Family Stone fo...

Promotional photo of Sly & the Family Stone for Rolling Stone, 1970 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I always enjoyed that band. Their songs–Everyday People, Dance to the Music, and Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself, were not only joyous, uniting us, but extraordinarily musical. As I watched, Sly jumped up from his organ and ran into the audience at the Ed Sullivan Theater and tried to get the stodgy white folks dressed up for a night of “going to town” to dance with him. There were no takers. Their faces mingled shock with attempts to curl their lips up into grins, to appear at least a little hip. Sly didn’t care. He kept dancing. He kept rocking. And he ended up thanking the audience for “letting him be himself” while taking a bow.It struck me as funny and alarming at the same time–because the people in the Ed Sullivan show watching the performers believed that they were America and these rockers were a cultural transition–an anomaly which would soon pass, and that we would return to a corporate sanity.

Are you ready for this? They were wrong.

It got me thinking. There are three things I avoid doing. When I was younger I did them because I felt I was some sort of crusader for a cause–against the “wooly bear monsters” of the world. I now realize that you can’t have a sword fight with the wind.

1. I don’t try to satisfy the dissatisfied. There are people who arrive with faces already in place and they have no intention of ever altering that countenance. They have already “decided.” Of what they have decided I am not sure, but when you tell them to “be of good cheer,” what they do is sneer. Any time spent chipping away at such stone will only break your chisel … or create a very ugly sculpture.

2. I learned that you can’t change the arrogant. Once folks decide they’re better than anyone else, they will fight you, argue with you and actually be willing to die for their own form of prejudice. We keep wanting to have dialogues in this country about things like racism, poverty and spirituality. That would require that the people indulging in the conversations would be willing to forfeit their present cemented views for more fluid possibilities. Can I give you a clue? It’s not going to happen. What happens is that the people sitting in the Ed Sullivan Theater, who think it’s foolish to dance to the music, just die. If you’re smart, you’ve been having conversations with their children, with the aspiration of creating a better generation. In other words, “Grandma and Grandpa, you are welcome to come along with us. Just don’t bring your bigotry.”

3. I get away from folks who hope things get worse. I occasionally go to churches where they are having Sunday School classes on Revelation, the Book of Daniel and the end of the world. This is a hopeless situation. There is no way you can offer a savior to the world if you’re secretly hoping that they don’t accept him so he can ride in on a white horse and chop off their heads. People who believe that we’re all going to hell in a handbasket spend all their days and nights weaving handbaskets. It’s fruitless.

You might cynically say, “Then who is left?” Well, let me borrow from Sly and the Family Stone. There ARE people who have not given up on the idea of human beings. Here is some fresh information. At the top of that list is God. I like to have my name put on a list where God is at the peak of the signatures.

As Sly said in the song, Dance to the Music, “You gotta find the rhythm.” If you want to make a difference, you’ve got to understand that no matter what you see, no matter what you hear and no matter what you think, people will be free. You can lock them up for years in the Soviet Union, you can try to use religion to prohibit liberty, you can blow up all the heathen nations in the name of Allah–you will end up being the fool. The rhythm of earth demands that people will be free.

Also as Sly and the Family Stone said in Everyday People, you gotta join the harmony. “NoOne is better than anyone else.” I don’t care if you agree; I don’t care if you have found some clever exception to the principle. Your particular cunning is not going to outfox the spirit of God which is no respecter of persons.

And finally, borrowing from Sly and the Family Stone’s song, Thank You for Letting Me Be Myself, each one of us should go out and write our own melody. Since we know that people will be free and that NoOne is better than anyone else, go out and find a reason every day to believe. I am sick to death of the religionists who tout a mere Ten Commandments and the atheists who contend they are geniuses by removing faith from their everyday walks. It is my job to find a reason to believe–and in so doing, write my melody line to go with the harmony of life and the rhythm of the universe.

So to quickly review, do yourself a big favor and stop trying to satisfy the dissatisfied, change the arrogant or hang around folks who are waiting for the end of the world. Instead:

  • Find the rhythm. People will be free.
  • Learn the harmony. NoOne is better than anyone else.
  • And write your melody. Everyday find a new reason to believe.

This is the kind of idealism in the heart of a human being that makes God smile.

Ed Sullivan will always be known for being a kind of stuffy guy who let rock and roll have its day. He won’t be remembered for booking the guy with the spinning plates. So … stop spinning plates.

Get out there and rock your world.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

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