Life, Love, Justice, Hope: On Listening to a Concert with Joan Baez

Joan Baez




Jan had recorded a concert with Joan Baez marking her seventy-fifth birthday, and she’s playing it. While preparing dinner I half listened, half cooked, and, well, ruminated a little.

Among my younger friends, particularly of a political turn I’ve noticed an inclination to critique my Boomer generation. And, no doubt we deserve a fair bit of castigation. But they throw a wildly diverse generation into a handful of boxes, for my crowd, mostly with something of a sneer they call “hippies.”

And then simply dismiss our time as a failure. Or, something, sometimes, worse.

Of course these are my people. Or, some part of who they are, particularly those who embraced spiritual revolution which broke away from a monocultural view of the world and embraced a wild, chaotic, sexually expressive, proto-feminist, spiritual inquisitive, and communalist world view that open to the wisdom of the world’s traditions wherever, however it presented.

We failed. Or, the many seeds, including much of that terrible term “unintended consequences.” Many of those seeds rooted and created some good, which we’ve often forgotten. Some because of the many ugly things that also came along. Drugs, obviously, were a dead end. How our celebration of individualism mutated into the greed and grasping of libertarianism definitely is one of those unintended consequences. Selfishness, grasping, and bleeding certainties certainly have taken center stage. And we had a hand in that. No doubt.


We did help midwife some things into this world that are worthy. Not least, the full on wild embrace of human sexuality that has allowed us to see the glory of our humanity as physical beings, of what would become multiple waves of feminism, a deep concern with racial justice, and a call to relentlessly care for the least among us.

We aimed for some lovely, lovely things.

And, yes, we failed.

But, here’s a small bit of news for my younger friends. You, too, will fail.

The world is caught up in an eternal struggle of hope and despair, of life and of death. And, let’s be clear, death will win.

Death wins.

But even knowing that, the struggle is worth it. There is only the doing. And when we must, when it is time, letting go. And, you might find some solace, and who knows, perhaps some guidance if you look at the best among my generation. Like, say, Joan Baez.


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