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Lazarus and the Rich Man by Gustave Dore

Lazarus and the Rich Man by Gustave Dore

“No individual can live alone, no nation can live alone, and anyone who feels that he can live alone is sleeping through a revolution. The world in which we live is geographically one. The challenge that we face today is to make it one in terms of brotherhood. … Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools.”

Words spoken not today but nearly fifty years ago by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr during  this talk at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC on March 31, 1968.  In this day and age of soundbites and tweets, it might be a challenge to read in entirety but I hope you have the opportunity to do so.  I chanced upon it while researching Dives and Lazarus.  I was curious about the parable that inspired one of my favorite pieces of music.

Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus by Ralph Vaughn Williams I play to help me unlock a part of my brain when I am stuck on a writing project.  The music moved me long before I truly understood the story at its core.  A friend explained the story of the rich man, Dives, and the poor man, Lazarus, a parable appearing in the Gospel of Luke.  He recently summed it up as a story of inequality and early trickle down economics.

The Rich Man and the Poor Lazarus by Hendrick ter Brugghen, 1625

The Rich Man and the Poor Lazarus by Hendrick ter Brugghen, 1625

I was curious who else may have used or been inspired by such a perspective of that parable.  Thus, I found Dr. King’s talk from 1968.  During the talk, of Dives and Lazarus he wrote:

“… Because our expressways carry us from the ghetto, we don’t see the poor. … Jesus told a parable one day, and he reminded us that a man went to hell because he didn’t see the poor. His name was Dives. He was a rich man. And there was a man by the name of Lazarus who was a poor man, but not only was he poor, he was sick. Sores were all over his body, and he was so weak that he could hardly move. But he managed to get to the gate of Dives every day, wanting just to have the crumbs that would fall from his table. And Dives did nothing about it. And the parable ends saying, “Dives went to hell, and there were a fixed gulf now between Lazarus and Dives.”

There is nothing in that parable that said Dives went to hell because he was rich. Jesus never made a universal indictment against all wealth. …  Dives didn’t realize that his wealth was his opportunity. It was his opportunity to bridge the gulf that separated him from his brother Lazarus. Dives went to hell because he was passed by Lazarus every day and he never really saw him. He went to hell because he allowed his brother to become invisible. …”

Lazarus and the Rich Man by Fyodor Bronnikov

Lazarus and the Rich Man by Fyodor Bronnikov

Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, throughout the talk there is a sad timelessness to King’s words about racism, injustice, economic inequality, and silence.  But there is also a beautiful timelessness about the power and potential of people to make a difference. Near the end of his talk, he says:

“There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will.  In a few weeks some of us are coming to Washington to see if the will is still alive or if it is alive in this nation. We are coming to Washington in a Poor People’s Campaign. Yes, we are going to bring the tired, the poor, the huddled masses. We are going to bring those who have known long years of hurt and neglect.  … We are not coming to engage in any histrionic gesture. We are not coming to tear up Washington. We are coming to demand that the government address itself to the problem of poverty. … We are coming to ask America to be true to the huge promissory note that it signed years ago. And we are coming to engage in dramatic nonviolent action, to call attention to the gulf between promise and fulfillment; to make the invisible visible.”

 

 Sources/Additional Reading

Rich Man and Lazarus

Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution by Martin Luther King Jr, 1968

More on the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom 1968

More about Ralph Vaughn Williams and his composition

Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus on Youtube

 

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That is the music that I happened to be listening to as I downloaded these images, of morning light falling upon the African violets in the kitchen.  Not a bad way to start the week.  Have a good one, folks.

 

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I just feel like there’s music in this play of light and shadows and hints of color.

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1. a new stained glass project

2. the foods of summer

3. music that makes me want to write

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All I know about music is that not many people ever really hear it.  And even then, on the rare occasions when something opens within, and the music enters, what we mainly hear, or hear corroborated, are personal, private, vanishing evocations.  But the man who creates the music is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air. What is evoked in him, then, is of another order, more terrible because it has no words, and triumphant, too, for that same reason. And his triumph, when he triumphs, is ours.”  — Sonny’s brother in Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin

boston harbor blue, may 2014

boston harbor blue, may 2014

I’ve been lucky enough to know people with a wide variety of tastes in music, and I’ve especially appreciated their attempts to express what the music evokes for them.  I wouldn’t mind asking my father what the blues did for him, but I don’t really need any concrete words. I’ll always remember the looks on his face as he played those 78s.  He loved listening to the blues (and wasn’t too bad playing along on a harmonica).   He played the blues a lot after my mother passed away, mostly, because he had the freedom to do so.  You see, my mother hadn’t been too keen on that music.  It made her too sad. But, that music, no matter how dark, seemed to put some pep in my father’s step even as he wiped away tears.

I was reminded of my parents, and other family and friends, as I recently read James Baldwin’s short story, Sonny’s Blues, about two brothers coming to understand one another.  Near the end, the youngest brother, the troubled one, and the musician, is up on stage, playing the blues as part of a quartet.  As the older brother reflects upon what he is seeing and hearing, the reader is reminded that music can be a salve for old wounds, a bridge between past and the present, and, perhaps most importantly, it is through music that life is shared.  As Baldwin writes, “For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.

blue lillies along the mystic, 2014

blue lillies along the mystic, 2014

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This morning around the oak tree (that towers above the house) there was a symphony of color at play.

Spring light illuminated new growth, including golden pollen.

The wind brought sweeping movement.

It was a song celebrating life …

from the grand moments

to the tiny details.

A passionate composition of fierce expression in glorious color and texture.

At least that would be my music review. 😉

 

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One day I found myself walking along, looking at the world around me.  I passed a stand of birch and I found myself thinking, if I only knew how to paint, I’d paint these trees.  I kept moving along, but the sight of the trees remained in my mind and I found myself thinking, if only I could write music then maybe I could write a song about the trees.  But I know I don’t write music and so I started thinking, if only I could sing then maybe I could find someone else to write the music, but that would only work if I wasn’t shy. Now, I don’t really think I can sing but sometimes when I’m sure I’m alone, some kind of sound passes between my lips.  And so that day, with all those if’s put out into the world, I decided to go ahead and try that singing thing.  The following soft words emerged in some kind of rhythm.

If I knew how to paint

I’d paint these trees

How the wind does make them sway

Their leaves sunlit

Their branches bent

While high above soars a bird

Nothing Earth-shattering but it did make me feel good to sing and then hum the song for a bit.  Only later did I realize that the tune (if that’s the right word) that I used for my trees was for that of Amazing Grace, a point made clear when I viewed one of today’s Cowbird Daily stories.  The video short is an excerpt from the journey of another walker, Andrew Forsthoefel.  I hope you have a chance to view and listen to the video for yourself.  And by the way, that picture above … there must have been a day when I forgot that I couldn’t paint. 😉

Amazing Grace

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trees standing tall in the Fells

trees in shadow upon the ground

and the music that inspired as I decided which sylvan images to post

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On New Year’s Eve, I chanced upon the PBS broadcast of Yo Yo Ma performing Azul with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.  I felt frozen listening to the musicians and enraptured by the passion on Yo Yo Ma’s face.   Later I learned in this program note of composer Osvaldo Golijov’s desire in developing this recently commissioned work for cello and orchestra to “recapture for the present that ability of the late Baroque composers to suspend time without stopping motion in their music …”  A complicated piece to say the least.  Time felt suspended for me on occasion.  When you have a chance, give a listen and see what you experience.  This link will take you to an actual video of the New York Philharmonic performance (Azul can be accessed at 14:33) or you can listen via the following Youtube video.

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At the bottom of this post is a video of Ladysmith Black Mambazo singing Rain Rain Beautiful Rain.  A friend shared the song with me and I promised her when it next rained that I would share the song with others.

Well today is a very, very rainy and gray day in the Boston area.

Rainy and gray …

and still beautiful.

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