Tag Archives: Dignity

Why, Indeed?

My 22-year-old student, who continues to inspire my writing, asked me just this morning: “Why is there so much evil in the world?” I found the coincidence curious as I was thinking about the very same thing on my way into work. I was asked only yesterday what my political views were, which has triggered a significant amount of gray matter to develop a inoffensive answer, but the frankness of her question begged me to throw caution to the wind and answer her query as I would see fit and I did. But first, a parable, if you please, from a millennia old story:

“There was once a man,” Grandfather began, “who lived in the old countries and was deeply loved by his family, his clan, and by all of the people as all of the people loved each other in those times before the great change. One day the man built a fence around a bit of our Mother Earth and said ‘mine.’ Now his neighbors had never seen a fence before and did not like the man’s audacity in claiming that a portion of Our Mother, who by birthright belongs to all, was his alone. The people sought the advice of the wisest of the Elders who concluded that the man had a sickness of the brain and advised the people to leave him be lest he cause injury to them. However, one of the Elders was also a gifted and trusted seer who warned the people of a great calamity coming to all and encouraged them to kill the man immediately, and tear down the fence and forget about it, out of their unselfish love for all of the people.”

“Grandfather,” his daughter asked, “what did the people do?”

“They left him be and damned all of mankind forever more.”

I explained to my student that I perceived the root of the evil that lurks in the hearts of mankind to be one of greed that is greatly exacerbated by the private ownership of our natural resources. I further observed that if we all worked together and shared our natural resources I do not see how things like starvation, homelessness, disease, and none of the poverties could exist. Not economic poverty. Not spiritual poverty. Not nutritional poverty. Not even the poverty of inadequate Love.

I was once telling a relation of mine this same basic tenet and when I was all said and done she looked at me in earnest seriousness and said: “But, I don’t want to share.”

If only we could get past all of the “I don’t want to share’s” and the “I need more, more, more’s” even after the accumulation of billions. To slightly paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one needs to be rich but all persons need to live with dignity.” I think Eleanor was a very wise woman and worked hard to secure the blessings of dignity for all. Though that we could all be as wise.

Touched By An Angel Songbook2
Many years ago there was a television show called “Touched By An Angel” that many people know about. Fewer people know that there was also an album called “Touched By An Angel” that included the song “Dignity,” written and performed by Bob Dylan, that has always moved me. You can listen to this song on YouTube here: Dignity. For those of you who might be interested in the album it is still in print. The Songbook, however, has been long out of print and I feel fortunate to have a copy in my music library.

Here are the lyrics to Dignity:

Fat man lookin’ in a blade of steel
Thin man lookin’ at his last meal
Hollow man lookin’ in a cottonfield
For dignity

Wise man lookin’ in a blade of grass
Young man lookin’ in the shadows that pass
Poor man lookin’ through painted glass
For dignity

Somebody got murdered on New Year’s Eve
Somebody said dignity was the first to leave
I went into the city, went into the town
Went into the land of the midnight sun

Searchin’ high, searchin’ low
Searchin’ everywhere I know
Askin’ the cops wherever I go
Have you seen dignity?

Blind man breakin’ out of a trance
Puts both his hands in the pockets of chance
Hopin’ to find one circumstance
Of dignity

I went to the wedding of Mary-lou
She said “I don’t want nobody see me talkin’ to you”
Said she could get killed if she told me what she knew
About dignity

I went down where the vultures feed
I would’ve got deeper, but there wasn’t any need
Heard the tongues of angels and the tongues of men
Wasn’t any difference to me

Chilly wind sharp as a razor blade
House on fire, debts unpaid
Gonna stand at the window, gonna ask the maid
Have you seen dignity?

Drinkin’ man listens to the voice he hears
In a crowded room full of covered up mirrors
Lookin’ into the lost forgotten years
For dignity

Met Prince Phillip at the home of the blues
Said he’d give me information if his name wasn’t used
He wanted money up front, said he was abused
By dignity

Footprints runnin’ cross the silver sand
Steps goin’ down into tattoo land
I met the sons of darkness and the sons of light
In the bordertowns of despair

Got no place to fade, got no coat
I’m on the rollin’ river in a jerkin’ boat
Tryin’ to read a note somebody wrote
About dignity

Sick man lookin’ for the doctor’s cure
Lookin’ at his hands for the lines that were
And into every masterpiece of literature
for dignity

Englishman stranded in the blackheart wind
Combin’ his hair back, his future looks thin
Bites the bullet and he looks within
For dignity

Someone showed me a picture and I just laughed
Dignity never been photographed
I went into the red, went into the black
Into the valley of dry bone dreams

So many roads, so much at stake
So many dead ends, I’m at the edge of the lake
Sometimes I wonder what it’s gonna take
To find dignity