America Could Be

Raising Up the Noble Love Within Us to Heal the Divide

Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

Several years ago, I was driving along listening to the poet Ezra Pound recite his poetry via cassette tape in the car — (like I said, several years ago!). When I heard him say: “The thought of what America would be like if the classics had a wide circulation, troubles my sleep,” I was struck, viscerally, and had to pull over to the side of the road to write it down.

I thought I would write a song using Ezra’s poetry but listening further, I didn’t really connect with much more than that one sentence on the tape. Instead, I wondered what classics would wake me up? What would inspire us as a nation to reach our potential as a beacon of freedom in the world? The result was a song of quotes.

I worked on the song with my wife, Julia, and friend Josh Garey and then sang it to my beloved Uncle Jeff. He liked the song but wanted me to change one word. “If you change ‘would’ to ‘could’ in the chorus, then the thought of what America could be like offers possibility and hope,” he said.

I informed him that these were the poet’s words and you couldn’t change them. I still remember my righteous conviction which prevented me from bending at the time.

Upon further investigation, I discovered that old Ezra Pound, the revered poet of Yeats and a generation, had gone off the rails and become a fascist. He was certainly not the person we wanted to be upholding. Could we still use his quote and have the song not be tainted by his political stance?

This is a point that is coming up today as the shadows of more artists, comedians and leaders are being exposed. When I was growing up, O.J. Simpson was someone to look up to, until he wasn’t. Bill Cosby was the comedians’ comedian, he was the spokesmen for childhood and decency. It turned out he wasn’t nearly as decent as the image he was projecting. Unfortunately, the list goes on and on.

In truth, even giants such as MLK and Gandhi were not saints in their private lives, yet their desires to alleviate the suffering of those around them lifted them up past their pettiness.

Leadership by John Hain on Pixabay

It is a hard truth to recognize that light can come through the poet but the human being is always susceptible to fallibility.

As we considered reviving this song, we struggled with another quote:

“The unexamined life is not worth living,” which is credited to Socrates quoting Plato.

Photo by Jack Finnigan on Unsplash

There was a concern that the quote could be misconstrued to somehow suggest that life is not worth living. Certainly, life IS worth living but we are not merely clumps of dirt being carried over the falls only to settle back into the ground. Upon reflection, we may find that we are part and parcel of life itself and that what flows through us is, as Thomas Dolby once said so perfectly, “Poetry in motion.”

Blind adherence to political, religious or any conviction can prevent us from connecting with one another compassionately. We each have a noble love within us that makes us strong and gives us light-hearted clarity. When we lead with that nobility we can heal the divide between us.

We originally called our song of quotes, Pound for Your Thoughts but we have changed it to America Could Be. The reason for that is because America, like Ezra Pound, has the potential of allowing its natural poetry to flow through and become a light to the world. And, like Ezra Pound, if we become blinded by our politics, we can lose our way. We can begin separating children from their families. We can tear down freedom of speech and religious freedoms. We can try to merge education with the department of labor. We can equate literacy with being elitist. In short, without our noble love, our beloved democracy can sink into fascism through blind patriotic conviction.

Julia and I promote literacy because:

By reading we are connected to the rest of humanity.

By reading we are reminded of what we have left to learn.

By reading we are not reliant on programs, politicians or preachers, or even authors to furnish us with our opinions and beliefs. It is in the reflection that we loosen up conviction and expand our hearts.

Liberty does not originate or rest within our political machinery. Each of us can uphold the America and world we would like to manifest.

When we started playing this song in concert, we were approached by people who were on the opposite side of the political fence than a majority of the audience. These individuals shared that they appreciated feeling that they could have a conversation as opposed to feeling ostracized. This prompted us to record the song and create a video for it in time for the 4th of July since it’s a day of celebration that honors our independence from tyranny. It’s always nice to be reminded.

So, here you are and here we are. Individually and collectively, we are a classic waiting to be written as history. “Let freedom (and kindness) reign”:

America Could Be by The Levins (music by The Levins and Josh Garey)

https://youtu.be/cL9WbU7sHZo

Great teachers said: “Love is patient and kind.”

“Ask and it shall be given you.” “Seek and you shall find.”

Another great one said: “An eye for an eye is only making the whole world blind.”

“The thought of what America (could) be like, if the classics had a wide circulation, troubles my sleep.”

The thought of what America, the thought of what America (could) be like, troubles my sleep.”

A great leader said: “We declare our independence to be free.”

“(Everyone’s) created equal with a right to liberty.”

A great prophet said: “Into plowshares turn their swords and their spears to pruning hooks. Nation shall learn war no more.”

“The thought of what America (could) be like, if the classics had a wide circulation, troubles my sleep.”

The thought of what America, the thought of what America (could) be like, troubles my sleep.”

“Know yourself.” “Nothing in excess.” This was the Greek key to success.

The advice their philosopher was giving:

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

“The thought of what America (could) be like, if the classics had a wide circulation, troubles my sleep.”

The thought of what America, the thought of what America (could) be like, troubles my sleep.

Photo by Daryan Shamkhali on Unsplash

Peace, Love and Literacy, Ira and Julia Levin

###

Quotes in America Could Be:

“Love is patient and kind.”- Paul of Tarsus

“Ask and it shall be given you.” “Seek and you shall find.”- Jesus of Nazareth

“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” — Mahatma Gandhi

“The thought of what America would be like, if the classics had a wide circulation, troubles my sleep.”- Ezra Pound

“We declare our independence to be free.”

“ All men are created equal with a right to liberty.”- Thomas Jefferson

“Into plowshares turn their swords and their spears to pruning hooks.

Nation shall learn war no more.”- Isaiah

“Know Thyself”- Socrates

“Nothing in excess.” -inscription on the wall of the temple of Apollo at Delphi.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”- Socrates (quoting Plato)

Photo by Aaron Ang on Unsplash

Originally published at www.streamoflightblog.com on July 1, 2018.