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Gratitude as a grounding practice in 2020: Song Analysis #67: Johnny Nash – I Can See Clearly Now

I chose today’s song for analysis because it’s one whose original meaning I never would have guessed in a million years. What I love about it is that while so many of us have been off the mark about its meaning, I am sure that its legacy is far greater than the songwriter ever could have imagined.

Before 6 in the morning this past Sunday, I woke up feeling something in the pit of my stomach. Something’s not quite right, I said to myself. I turned over and over in bed, and the feeling would not go away. My eyes snapped open. I started to get very nervous. There was no way I was getting back to sleep. Depending on my connection to them and how strong the feelings are, I can feel anxiety from the people I know when they are in trouble or are emotional. But in past experience, that only happens when I’m awake.

I went downstairs and started doing some gentle stretches and movements to see if I would feel any better. In an attempt to defuse the worry inside me, I tried to laugh at myself. You’re imagining it. This isn’t that bad. Maybe it’s just gas, you idiot. But that didn’t make any sense to me. You didn’t eat anything funny, you didn’t eat right before bed, and you definitely ate hours ago. Trust a biologist to try and rationalize the actions of the human body. So predictable. Still, a warm cup of tea might do the trick…

The tea did help, thankfully. But as I was warming the water for a second cup, I noticed something else as I looked out the kitchen window and into the back garden. It was half-light of the early dawn. This time of the morning, I should be fast asleep. As I continued to look out the window, mug in hand, I noticed two birds flying together, right over a clearing on the property. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a brown furry creature. It was a fox sauntering across the back patio. The relaxed way he walked, it was like he owned the place. I chuckled to myself.

If I hadn’t been awake, I wouldn’t have witnessed either of these events.

I began to consider that I was meant to wake up when I did. That the divine (in the spiritual sense more than the religious) wanted to jolt me enough with stomach pains to get me out of bed, put on my favorite old sweater, venture downstairs, and see with my eyes something so amazing. I stood there in awe as the sun slowly made its ascent over the house.

Unless you count the sunrises I’ve seen out the window of a train, bus, or a taxi leaving home or while in the UK, sunrises are not something I go out of my way to catch. In my travels, they have always been associated with either the excitement of an impending vacation or the deflating anticipation of leaving the land I love and returning home.

The sun rises every morning without fail, then sets in the evening to go to bed, readying itself for the next day to rise again. As if it was just like us.

I now began to feel some guilt that this magic has occurred every day of my life, and I never paid any attention. After months of struggle, it was this weekend that I felt I was truly starting to see the light in my life. Just like I imagine it has been for many of you reading this, 2020 has been my wake-up call to the things I have missed. For me, the process stepped on the proverbial gas on the second Friday of January, when one of our own died after a valiant battle with cancer. This year has also given me a bigger push to identify where I have not been honoring myself as a human being and as a woman.

Of course, the coronavirus itself is not a blessing, as it is sickened and killed so many of our fellow humans. However, what the virus has done is given us a blessing in disguise, the ability to hit pause on our lives, so often often by blind responsibility and the need to succeed and gain material wealth, and in more recent years, too much attention to those electronic devices always in our hands. I really like to travel and the majority of my friends live abroad, so I must admit that my first concern once lockdown measures were taken was a purely selfish one. How and when would I ever be able to leave the country and see my friends again?

As coronavirus revealed itself to be a doctor’s worst nightmare – highly contagious and highly destructive to the human body – my mood shifted morosely. Fear, for myself, my family, and my friends’ well-being set in. We’ve all gotten past the initial shock of a worldwide pandemic, and so much has changed.

Consider for yourself how you have changed during this year. Now that many aspects of what we knew as our normal everyday lives have gone quiet, have you become more grateful for what you do have? In modern America, never before since the Great Depression have we been more grateful to have our health, running water, a roof over our heads, a safe place to sleep, and something to eat.

If you have been struggling with how your life has changed, I encourage you to begin a daily gratitude exercise, if you aren’t already doing this. I must admit that in the past when this was suggested to me, I balked, thinking this was new age crazy talk, and it wouldn’t actually do anything. There are direct, documented medical benefits to practicing gratitude, not to mention that it itself is an effective, free, and easy to use tool to ground yourself.

Now, on to the lyrics and the analysis!

Title: ‘I Can See Clearly Now’
Where to find it: ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ and ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ single (1972, Epic)
Performed by: Johnny Nash (and later, just as famously, by Jimmy Cliff)
Words by: Johnny Nash

Verse 1
I can see clearly now, the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day

Verse 2
Oh, yes I can make it now the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day

(Ooh…) Look all around, there’s nothing but blue skies
Look straight ahead, there’s nothing but blue skies

Verse 3
I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day
It’s going to be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day

Yeah, hey, it’s gonna be a bright (bright) bright (bright)
Sunshiny day

If you’re my age, you probably associate ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ with the 1993 Winter Olympics-themed Disney film Cool Runnings. Although the storyline took liberties with the true story behind the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team, the film is one of those “rooting for the underdog” type of movies that never fails to inspire. Sad or depressed? Watch it to enjoy the palm trees and laugh at the seemingly ridiculous premise of a bunch of runners on a tropical island who want to be Winter Olympians, then feel good when their efforts are redeemed in the powerful ending.

Even if you don’t like reggae (which I don’t), there’s a lot to love about this song. For starters, whether he intended to or not, Johnny Nash used words that are easy to sing along to, as well as take advantage of a note progression that isn’t too hard for vocal cords to follow. It’s all very evocative without trying too hard to be so. What could be more easily imagined in your mind’s eye than a beautiful sun, rainbows, and dark clouds? For these reasons, this is a great song to teach kids.

What is likely to be lost on children is the redemptive tones of the song. As children, we are carefree and don’t think too hard about serious troubles. It’s when we are adults that our ills, responsibilities, failures, anything looming large really start to bother us. Worry, anxiety, and depression, in their varying degrees, creep in. We lose sleep, self-esteem, and possibly even our own sanity.

From personal experience having heard it myself, quite possibly the worst thing you can say to a person who’s depressed is “it can’t be that bad.” The problem with depression is that when you’re inside it, it’s like you’re stuck in an entirely black, sunless abyss with no way out. It’s so dark that if there are any escape routes, any ropes to footholds to grab, or even a glancing hope that when it gets light out again, you might be able to come out, you can’t see any of it. Yes, perhaps the almost Disney-fied image of a rainbow being revealed after the dark clouds have parted is an oversimplification, but for a radio-friendly pop single clocking in at less than 3 minutes, we must give Nash the benefit of the doubt.

Outside of its film connection, why did ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ become such a memorable track? It should come as no surprise that the tune has been used in numerous advertisements, ranging from allergy medication, window cleaner, and even instant coffee. I could have sworn an American eyeglass store used it, too. I worked for a time in advertising sync, a very competitive business. As someone who spends inordinate amounts of time interpreting lyrics, one of the most disappointing things I learned about syncing was that the company selling the product are often all too happy to match a song to their products literally with the words, often discounting the feeling or mood of the song.

I suppose it is appropriate, then, to learn that in the case of ‘I Can See Clearly Now,’ legend has it that Nash wrote the lyrics to the song while recovering from cataract surgery and are therefore pretty much literal. Check out Nash performing the song on The Midnight Special in 1973 below.

The difficult survival of popular music and how to help / Song Analysis #65: Manic Street Preachers – Anthem for a Lost Cause

I haven’t talked much about why I decided to step back from There Goes the Fear last year.  Music writing, editing my writers’ work, the research, and all the admin of running a website, including its social media accounts and ad revenue, consumed all my free time for 10 years.  I don’t think most people realized that.  A lot of people I encountered through my travels assumed from the amount of content I wrote, how much and where I traveled, and how little sleep I got at times, TGTF was my full-time and only job.  I had a separate 9-5, Monday-Friday career in nonprofit that paid the bills and made traveling abroad to shows and festivals and experiencing the world possible.  I was burning the candle at both ends, my body was suffering, and no one was advising me to back off of one or the other.

Working very hard like this is not at all uncommon for people in the music business.  Most of my friends who work in it are, by nature of the industry, hustlers who work multiple jobs and long hours, often in difficult, unstable circumstances, because of how passionate they are about their role in this business.  The big-name bands you know and love may have villas in the south of France and their own private jet, but indie artists these days and anyone who works behind the scenes aren’t that rich or anywhere near that flashy.

I had entertained moving abroad for a long time and wanted to figure out how to do that.  I left a conference in February in Belfast with friends’ full support and thinking this was going to be the year I’d finally do it.  But like so many things for so many people this year, I had to scrap the plan due to the coronavirus.  I’m really not happy about it, sure, but I’m going to be okay pushing my plan off for later.  I’m not so sure about my friends and their livelihoods.  I can’t think of too many people who have welcomed the pandemic.  Uh, Jeff Bezos?  He isn’t thought of too highly in the DC area after he bought The Washington Post

I chose today’s song for an unusual reason: my original interpretation wasn’t on the mark at all.  Keep reading to see how I tie the band’s explanation for the meaning of the song to the title of this post.

Title: ‘Anthem for a Lost Cause’
Where to find it: ‘Rewind the Film’ and ‘Anthem for a Lost Cause’ single (2013, Columbia)
Performed by: Manic Street Preachers
Words: James Dean Bradfield

Verse 1
It’s a cold and lonely message
At the end of a song
It invaded hearts and minds
But they couldn’t get along
It can ask you to remember
It can ask you for a dance
So it seems that every song
Now is just one last chance

Take this, it’s yours
An anthem for a lost cause
Now ashes, bone, and splinter
What once was a glittering prize
The composition rites

Verse 2
Oh redemption, love, and departure
I think your work is done
Paris, St. Petersburg don’t need a tower of song
Escape’s not worth the capture
So walk that lonesome road
No joy or earthly rapture
Nothing to take the load

Chorus X 2
Take this, it’s yours
An anthem for a lost cause
Now ashes, bone, and splinter
What once was a glittering prize
The composition rites

Take this, it’s yours
An anthem for a lost cause
Now ashes, bone, and splinter
What once was a glittering prize
The composition rites


Take this, it’s yours
An anthem for a lost cause
Now ashes, bone, and splinter
What once was a glittering prize
The composition rites

Manic Street Preachers, with or without Richey Edwards, have been known for more politically aware and socially biting lyrics than those found on ‘Anthem for a Lost Cause’.  This is a schmaltzy, waltzy moment, with an old-fashioned ‘60s feel that Nicky Wire described in the Quietus was intentional: “The brass arrangements took ages, we were really trying to get the feel of Sam Cooke or something.”  They decided to give the promo video a Welsh political bent instead, reminding us all through an emotional, heart-tugging story set during the South Wales miners’ strike of 1984-1985 mounted in opposition of then UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  I have quite a few friends from Yorkshire and the North East.  Let’s just say that from what I have heard and learned, her legacy is not a positive one, either there or pretty much anywhere in the North.

I usually don’t stick the video or stream this early in the post, but I’m breaking all kinds of rules lately.

If I read a book before I see its film, I usually find the film is ruined for me.  I had the reverse happen when I watched the promo video, got all teary eyed and upset for the woman and the miners, and then went back to the lyrics and felt disenchanted.  I seem to remember I was too busy doing stuff for TGTF, so it took me ages for me to finally find the lyrics online.  Up to that point, I was going off what I heard.  Before I did any other digging, I interpreted the song as a man singing sweetly to a woman while they were slow dancing that he was in fact saying goodbye.  “Lonely” and “lonesome road” come up in the lyrics, suggesting a disappointing but inevitable outcome.  I interpreted the man as the “lost cause”, the guy who accepts that he can’t settle down, but he wants the woman to remember for who he was when they were together.

Nicky Wire said that James Dean Bradfield wrote this about “composition rites”, a phrase that confused me and that Wire misheard as “composition rights,” as in music composition copyright.  (I am not an expert in music copyright, whether in composition or sound recording, so consult your friendly music lawyer if you want to know more about this.)  The difference between “rites” and “rights” is apparently the key to this song.  An uncited sentence on the song’s Wikipedia page is credited to Bradfield’s further explanation: “In an interview, Bradfield stated that the song was about the question of if lyrics today are as important as they were before.”  With all the lyrics taken together, the song as a whole makes so much more sense.

I wanted to write about this song now because of what we’re seeing happening to the music business, and I want anyone who is unaware to wake up to the reality.  I’m having a hard time looking to a future when live shows and festivals will be looking like they used to, full of happy people, crammed in, experiencing live performance.  I’m wondering when the business that I knew will bounce back, if ever.  I have lived and breathed the music life for so many years, this truth was obvious to me, but louder for the oblivious ones in the back: the primary source of reliable income for most musicians and bands, performing live, is no longer a revenue stream.  This is catastrophic.

This is a disastrous time for anyone who makes a living through the music business because there are no shows going on: that means besides the people you watched on the stage, almost everyone who works in a behind the scenes role to live shows and festivals – of which there are a lot – now find themselves unemployed and scrambling to find alternate employment.  If an artist or band can’t make money, anyone who works for them won’t make any money either.  Live music venues are closing.  In short, this is really bad for all parts of the music industry ecosystem.

Bradfield’s sadness on ‘Anthem for a Lost Cause’ is legitimate.  He’s singing about the lack of interest and respect in music lyrics in popular music today, which should be extended to full songs themselves.  The average music listener can go on YouTube (free) or a music streaming service like Spotify, Deezer, etc. (free or paying a small fee) and not appreciate that you’re getting to listen to someone’s art for an infinitesimally small fee, art that was made through many people’s talent, hard work, and time.  In turn, the artist or band who made it are getting a criminally small return on all that talent, hard work, and time from the streaming service.  If you would like a story that explains the heinous nature of music streaming royalties, read this.  If you’re a numbers kind of person, this will do.

The music business has been like this for a long while.  I saw how it was becoming increasingly difficult to make a living by being a musician or being in a band.  It’s one of the reasons I worked so hard with TGTF.  It upset me deeply seeing my friends and young kids coming up struggle.  Being able to tour or appear at a festival had become an artist’s bread and butter.  My friends who are in bands like playing to crowds and getting that genuine audience reaction.  However, I am sure that many of them would not have toured as extensively and spent that much time away from home and their loved ones as they did if the actual singles and albums they made and released resulted in more profit for them.

If there are any silver linings to the economic fallout to COVID-19, I hope that there will be serious changes to the way the state and the music fans themselves appreciate, respect, and support artists.  If they are not supported financially going forward, less and less people will be making music.  We’re going to lose all that richness of art that comes through popular music. 

If you value any piece of music you have listened to in your life, you need to do something now. Support your favorite artists by buying music and merchandise from them.  Support your local venues however you can.  However small the contribution, make a difference. If you don’t know where to start, this is a good starting point.

*Photo at the top is of Irish band whenyoung, the last band I saw at SXSW 2019.

Forgiveness as an act of kindness to yourself / Song Analysis #64: Johnny Cash – A Boy Named Sue

I bought pastels at the beginning of the year, a good 2 months before COVID shut everything down around us in the D.C. area.  I’m mentally inclined and left-brained, probably genetically hard-wired to be so.  It didn’t help that I had a 7th grade art teacher who wanted to flunk me and made fun of my lack of natural ability in front of the whole class.  Outside of creative writing, I’ve struggled with other forms of artistic expression.  Art isn’t logical, it’s meant to be emotional.  Working with pastels has slowly gotten easier the more I let go of making things “look good” or “look right” and go with my gut on what I want to draw.

Going with your gut, I imagine, is something you need to do often if you’re a songwriter.  I’ve tried writing a melody before, and I just can’t.  I’ve always been amazed with the way a songwriter can craft the melody, background instrumentation, and lyrics and then put them together cohesively to make a song.  While I have no doubt that experience can make you a better writer and you can certainly hone your craft as time goes on, I have my reasons to believe that the skills you need to be a good songwriter – and an engaging entertainer, for that matter – are divine gifts that are a part of you when you’re born.  It’s not something you can easily pick up.  You either have them, or you don’t.

When I started out as a music blogger, I was quite sniffy about artists who didn’t write (or at least cowrite) the songs that they recorded and performed.  I am taking a slight step back from that position, having not realized until I did the research that in today’s song up for analysis, the very famous performer didn’t write what I consider one of the best he ever delivered live.  When I first heard the song when I was young, I only picked up on the humor.  I didn’t think about the moral of the story, which I will discuss below.

Title: ‘A Boy Named Sue’
Where to find it: ‘At St. Quentin’ and ‘A Boy Named Sue’ single (1969, Columbia)
Performed by: Johnny Cash
Words by: Shel Silverstein

Well my daddy left home when I was three
And he didn’t leave much to Ma and me
Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze
Now, I don’t blame him ’cause he run and hid
But the meanest thing that he ever did
Was before he left, he went and named me “Sue”

Well, he must o’ thought that is quite a joke
And it got a lot of laughs from a’ lots of folk
It seems that I had to fight my whole life through
Some gal would giggle and I’d get red
And some guy’d laugh and I’d bust his head
I tell ya, life ain’t easy for a boy named “Sue”

Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean
My fist got hard and my wits got keen
Roam from town to town to hide my shame
But I made me a vow to the moon and stars
I’d search the honky-tonks and bars
And kill that man who gave me that awful name

Well, it was Gatlinburg in mid-July
And I just hit town and my throat was dry
I thought I’d stop and have myself a brew
At an old saloon on a street of mud
There at a table, dealing stud
Sat the dirty, mangy dog that named me “Sue”

Well, I knew that snake was my own sweet dad
From a worn-out picture that my mother’d had
And I knew that scar on his cheek and his evil eye
He was big and bent and gray and old
And I looked at him and my blood ran cold
And I said, “My name is ‘Sue!’ How do you do!?
Now you gonna die!”
Yeah, that’s what I told ’em

Well, I hit him hard right between the eyes
And he went down, but to my surprise
He come up with a knife and cut off a piece of my ear
But I busted a chair right across his teeth
And we crashed through the wall and into the street
Kicking and a’ gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer

I tell ya, I’ve fought tougher men
But I really can’t remember when
He kicked like a mule and he bit like a crocodile
I heard him laugh and then I heard him cuss
He went for his gun and I pulled mine first
He stood there lookin’ at me and I saw him smile

He said, “Son, this world is rough
And if a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough
And I know I wouldn’t be there to help ya along
So I give ya that name and I said goodbye
I knew you’d have to get tough or die
And it’s the name that helped to make you strong”

Yeah, he said, “Now you just fought one hell of a fight
And I know you hate me, and you got the right
To kill me now, and I wouldn’t blame you if you do
But ya ought to thank me, before I die
For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye
‘Cause I’m the son-of-a-bitch that named you “Sue”
Yeah, what could I do, what could I do?

I got all choked up and I threw down my gun
Called him my Pa, and he called me his son
And I come away with a different point of view
And I think about him, now and then
Every time I try and every time I win
And if I ever have a son, I think I’m gonna name him…
Bill or George, any damn thing but Sue! I still hate that name! Yeah!

By this time, I think anyone who is a fan of Johnny Cash has seen the 2005 biopic Walk the Line starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon.  While the film dramatically grips you, I was glad to get better insight on the Man in Black last year, and in a special way.  2019 was the eighth year in a row I went to South by Southwest (SXSW) as press for There Goes the Fear.

On my last morning in Austin, I set aside time for a treat: the first and only film I’d ever see during all my times at SXSW, and I went to see it with my good friend Mark Gordon of Score Draw Music.  Mark is a cinephile (I am not) so he was surprised I have never seen a film during SXSW in all these years.  If I was going to pick a good one, I don’t think I could have done much better than The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash.  I wrote about it here for TGTF if you’d like to read that piece.  Even better, and to some absolute shock, you can now watch the film for free, with the occasional ad, here on YouTube.  Be sure to have some tissues on hand.  I came out of the Alamo Ritz with tears streaming down my cheeks.

It was to my surprise to learn that one of Cash’s more humorous songs, ‘A Boy Named Sue’, was one he did not pen himself.  It was written by Shel Silverstein, who is probably best known to American people my age as the author of Where the Sidewalk Ends, a book of poems that was read to us as children.  Silverstein was a humorist, so it makes sense that if he was going to write a song, it would be something with a twist, and it would make us laugh.  A plausible explanation on how Cash wound up with Silverstein’s song is here.  If there was ever a more perfect song written by another man for Johnny Cash to sing, show me.

If you’re not familiar with the song, you’ve now read the lyrics above.  You may have noticed that the words read like a poem, not a song, as there is no chorus.  In a nutshell, Silverstein wrote the story in this song to show how a feminine name given to a boy led to the boy turning into a man who is tough as nails.  All his life, Sue had to answer to taunts and bullying by other men who couldn’t be sympathetic to another named Sue.  Let’s be honest, who would be sympathetic?  I think we’ve all faced bullying or at least ribbing from someone over our own names, even if it was good-natured joking from our friends.  “Ching Chong Chinaman” ranks up there as the most unimaginative insult I received in the lunchroom in grade school.

The twist in the story comes in after the first third of the song.  The protagonist goes into a bar for what should be a normal bottle of beer.  Instead, he serendipitously comes across the man he recognizes, “I knew that snake was my own sweet dad / From a worn-out picture that my mother’d had / And I knew that scar on his cheek and his evil eye”, his own father.  Sue is still angry about being named Sue, and he’s finally getting the chance to let the man who gave him the name have it.  A violent tussle between father and son ensues.

Before Sue can beat his father to a bloody pulp or death, the father speaks up and rationalizes his choice of name for his son.  His explanation is that because he knew he wouldn’t be taking care of Sue and watching him grow up, he gave him a name that he knew would draw ridicule and would therefore toughen him up.  In other words, this was an act of being “cruel to be kind.” 

While in the moment and faced with this hard truth of tough love, the son “come[s] away with a different point of view”, like he’s been smacked in between the eyes with this knowledge now revealed.  He accepts that the act of his father naming him Sue wasn’t simply a cruel joke leveled on him by his deadbeat dad but instead, it was an act of love.  Sue gets overwhelmed with emotion, and the two reconcile.

The song ends on another humorous note.  Sue shouts and insists that if he ever had an opportunity to have a son and name him, he’d never give him a name like Sue: “Bill or George, any damn thing but Sue! I still hate that name!”  As much as he now understands why his father did what he did, he isn’t the same person as his father.  I like this because it shows that despite all the bullying he received through his life, Sue is human and an individual and can take a joke.  He can look back at his name with a laugh, but he also knows he’d never do what his father did to him to his own son.

I wanted to write about this song after thinking about it for a good month or so.  I’ve been through some rough experiences in my life, and one of the things you’re taught in therapy is to forgive the person who hurt you.  This can be hard to wrap your head around, because depending on who the person was, how the hurt was perpetrated, and if the hurt was repeated again and again, you may not be in the right head space or heart space to forgive that person.

There is a key to forgiveness that I feel should be emphasized especially.  If you have a conversation with someone and tell them you forgive them, the response you receive back may or may not give you the closure that you may feel you need.  You saying that you forgive your brother for burning your prized Marvel comic books when you two were kids may be met with your brother’s contrition.  Or it might not, with your brother not feeling sorry or taking any responsibility for what he did.  The key to forgiveness is making the act a compassionate one towards yourself.

By accepting what they did in an objective manner, you are freeing yourself from the negative self-talk about the incident in which you got hurt and where you were the victim.  I use the words “objective manner” because it’s important to discern between forgiving someone because you can let go of what they did to you vs. forgiving someone and meaning that you are okay with how badly they treated you.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you condone your wife cheating on you or your father physically abusing you when you were young.  It needs to mean that you have reached a point in your healing where you can look at the incident as “it is what it is,” where you can live in the present and move forward with your life instead of staying shackled to your past.  When you can let go of the pain, you will feel so much lighter.

If forgiving a certain someone sounds impossible to you, then you haven’t addressed the hurt and worked through it enough to come to the place of forgiveness.  The process is both mental and emotional, and you need to have both on the same page.  Also, most of us don’t get a neat apology and explanation like Sue did from his father in this song.  Human beings are complex creatures, and I think it bears repeating that “…every man is fighting a hard battle that may not be visible.  What is done to us often times isn’t because of who we are but what battles the other person has brewing in their head.  Be sovereign in your mind, and forgive others for their actions when you can.  Your body will thank you for it.

‘A Boy Named Sue’ was released as part of Johnny Cash’s live ‘At St. Quentin’ album, and it’s touching to watch him play it in front of the prison inmates.  (The version in the first video AT at the bottom of this post omits the second stanza of the song.  The second video is the full version on record.)  They could relate to what Cash was singing about because he had been jailed himself and how he sang, the stories felt believable that he had lived them.  If you’ve been given a gift like a voice and the skills to write a good song, use them for good.

…Ring of Fire?

You know that teacher I told you about when I started this post?  I haven’t thought of her much since my childhood.  However, when I picked the pastels up this past week, the memory of her embarrassing me in front of my peers came roaring back.  I was reminded that even if I thought I’d forgotten this terrible moment when I was 11, the moment of humiliation was still in me, subconsciously telling me the lie that I would never be able to draw something anyone would be proud of.  I’ve forgiven her for wanting to flunk me and the way she made me feel: that I was hopeless at art, and I was the problem.  There was never anything wrong with me to begin with, even though she said there was.  To come to that place of peace is huge.