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An Evening with Joan Baez

February 22, 2009

Dasha (my wife) and I went to hear Joan Baez sing last night at the Mesa Arts Center. A wonderful experience! The purity and beauty of her voice were still evident in every song she sang. As was her passion for a just world where we can all live in peace.

140px-joan_baez_time_23_november_1962Back in the 60s, her music touched me deeply, and it still does. As I listened last night, many of the feelings about life that I had in my 20s arose not just in a nostalgic way but also as a reminder of dimensions of myself that are not so clearly seen now, yet still part of my wholeness. In those early years of my adulthood, I took part in the massive “Ban the Bomb” demonstration in 1961 in Central Park in New York, went on a freedom ride and wound up in jail for three weeks (when I attempted to enter a restaurant with a black woman, a police officer pointed a shotgun gun inches from my face and told us to leave; we stayed and were arrested along with many other freedom riders who tried to enter other restaurants), demonstrated in Berkeley at the University of California, and, in general, felt the horror of the violent path our country was on. I saw clearly that our view of the world was not only narrow and self-serving but was “upside down” and that if any positive changes were to take place it meant that I myself would have to “be that change”–no easy task. I saw clearly that my life and the life of everyone else on the planet are inextricably linked, an insight that is still present in my consciousness.

Sometime in the mid 1980s, I introduced myself to Joan after a discussion event in San Francisco and spoke with her briefly about those years and what they meant and mean to our children. Though I don’t remember exactly when, I invited her later to come to an art show (the artists used computers to help them create their art) that I organized at my PR agency in San Francisco. Her mother wrote me back to tell me that Joan was unavailable but hoped that it was a great success. Wow! Of course, Joan did not remember me from our discussion, but her mother found the time to respond to my invitation nonetheless.

A great evening! One that still resonates in my mind, body, and heart.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Marcia permalink
    December 3, 2009 3:52 pm

    Nice story. 3 weeks in jail, huh? Was it worth it? Sounds like a good story and like it was worth it. I spent several months on two occasions in Atlanta in 1965 working with SCLC. It was hectic, to say the least, but worth it. Because I arrived with a cast on my leg I was not allowed to go into the counties because I could not run. So, to my good fortune, I was given a job in the headquarters alongside many notable civil rights workers, leaders, etc. and had many adventures, impressions, etc. I wonder where that call to civil action has gone with respect to the members of our generation who (seemingly less aware then than now) brought about worthwhile social change. Why has that part gone to sleep? Is it the baby that got throw out with the bathwater?

    You are such a great writer Dennis. This is, in part, what I was trying to say:
    “I saw clearly that our view of the world was not only narrow and self-serving but was “upside down” and that if any positive changes were to take place it meant that I myself would have to “be that change”–no easy task. I saw clearly that my life and the life of everyone else on the planet are inextricably linked, an insight that is still present in my consciousness.”

    I think this means action. I think the word “sanitized” ruffled a lot of feathers; but I think it points to a real problem in “spiritual practice”. Non-violence normally does not mean I don’t engage. It means, I think, that when I engage I am non-violent. It lessens its political meaning when people say they practice non-violence by not participating. Demonstrators can be and often are non-violent. Gandhi practiced non-violence in the midst of the worst slaughter imaginable. The Dalai Lama is non-violent but he works tirelessly in a political arena, not just in his spiritual domain. Non-violence is action. There is no escape whatever one does. How to do less harm is hard to figure out — action or non-action — which results in less harm?

    M

  2. December 3, 2009 4:14 pm

    Well worth it! Yes, there is no escape, except “ignor-ance” and sleep, which, of course, only contribute to the problems we face. “Being the change you wish for,” discovering real inner peace and harmony, takes enormous work on oneself. This is what can bring us to the best action possible for us and help those with whom we come into contact. But even then there are no final answers.

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