The other day while commuting to work, I was listening to a live recording of Janis Joplin performing Ball and Chain. Man, that woman can wail but good.
My favorite part in the song, though, is when she breaks off from singing and speaks to the audience. She sagely states:
“I don’t understand…how come…you’re gone, man. I don’t understand why half the world is still crying, man, when the other half of the world is still crying, too, man, and I can’t get it together.”
I first heard this song when I was 15 years old or so and was struck by the profound sorrow I heard in her lament, her confusion over the state of the world, the state of humanity, the sadness and hell we put each other through, the time and love that is squandered and wasted on petty things.
Now, here I am, 15 years later, and I am utterly baffled by this on-going problem, agog that it still exists so prevalently in our lives. How have we not collectively figured it out yet that, yes, we still want the same damn thing, all of us: to be treated with love, dignity and respect.
How come the world is still crying? How come we haven’t gotten it together yet?
I don’t believe a utopian existence is possible, by the way. There will always be tragedy and sadness, these things cannot be eradicated; it’s as natural as the setting sun…but damn, do we still have to deal with war? Religious bigotry? Racism? Misogyny? Hate crimes?
It seems like people are still feeling things out. People are still trying to figure out what’s right and what’s wrong. Vengeance still seems logical to most people, unfortunately. Forgiveness still seems utterly divine rather than a feat that can be achieved by mere man and woman.
Our feet still touch the base clay, but rather than being humbled by it and embracing each other as equally fallible beings who need a helping hand and some tough love now and again, it makes us oddly snotty and resistant to new ways of viewing things; many folks deny this blessed, natural equality, jumping on a really high horse and placing themselves on grandiose pedestals.
They forget that in placing themselves way up there, it makes it that much easier for me and others to laugh, point and say, “I can totally see your undies and the booger in your nose; you’re still human, so get over yourself.”
Empowerment groups are strange to me. Not good-strange, not bad-strange…just strange. Black power, gay power, woman power. I understand where they came from and why they exist, but I hope the need for them will dissolve sooner than later.
The best way I can explain it is this:
When I was a kid, I would often assemble puzzles with my mom. She liked landscapes best. We would begin by methodically separating the pieces: lake pieces went in their own pile, sky pieces went in their own pile, foliage pieces went in their own pile, etc. So at first glance, all we had was a bunch of useless piles.
Slowly, though, we would start assembling the pieces together until finally we had ourselves a pretty picture of, say, Lake Lucerne. Meditative work to be sure and we really enjoyed the work.
I think this is where we as humans are at now, at least I hope. We have all these pieces of people banding together in their own special piles, generating love and support and understanding: meditating over the reasoning behind the pile’s existence, enjoying the work. My hope is to see these separate piles come together soon, making a really awesome picture that will blow ol’ Lake Lucerne outta the water. I hope these positive piles will overcome other negative piles that have banded together in the name of power and greed and hate.
People should be happy, content and proud of whom they are, be it a gay Estonian or a single American mom. But I want us to hug each other while we’re at it and recognize the fact that having only a bunch of sky pieces, for example, makes for nothing but a boring blue façade.
We need the variety, we need the mix, we need the depth, to make the picture whole and beautiful and worthy of respecting. Worthy of loving. And cry no more.
I am hopeful. I mean, Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? Gotta break eggs to make omelets and all that jazz? One step forward, two steps back…I hope we get tired of dancing this dance soon and just sit for a spell, take a breather, smell the damn roses, eat an apple, play an instrument; smoke if you got ‘em.
Still, I can’t help but wonder how much things are changing for the better, or if we are still maintaining the same level of love/hate. Of course bad people have always been around and of course good people have always been around…but are there indeed more good people now than bad? Are we getting better? Are we almost ready to ditch this ball and chain of anger and despair? I can’t say.
But I am hopeful and I am ready, because as Janis went on to say:
“You ain’t got 365 days. You got it for one day, man. Well, I tell you, that one day, man, better be your life, man. Because you know, you could say, ‘Oh, man!,’ you could cry about the other 364, man, but you’re gonna lose that one day, man, and that’s all you got; you gotta call that love, man.”
Want 15 free additional reads weekly, just our best?
Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: courtesy of Flickr