As many of you know, I’m in the middle of writing a new book titled, “The Fiction of our Lives” (forthcoming from Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers, in the fall of 2016) – among other things a cultural and social commentary on our Boomer generation as we came of age in the ’60s and ’70s. I’m working now on chapter five, draft titled, “My Sweet Lord: God’s Lure and the Life Well Lived.” Among other things, I will take a look at our generation’s search for community apart from traditional religion. The late ’60s and ’70s – when I was a university student – was the heyday not only of radical social activism (anti-war, anti-establishment; black-is-beautiful; “tell it like it is, baby;” free love; etc. – not all of which I indulged in, let me make that clear!), but also of a strong religious revival on campus. There was an upsurge of religious study departments on secular campuses and a strong turn to the East and away from orthodox Judeo-Christian beliefs. Cat Stevens dropped out somewhere along the way moving, I believe, to India and joining some kind of commune – giving up a very lucrative career in the process. Many of the popular songs had overtly religious themes. The Beatles’ songs like “Eleanor Rigby,” “Let it Be” and “My Sweet Lord” – to name a few – had, in one way or another, religious protest at their core. And, of course, the rock opera “Hair” was nothing if not a protest against the Establishment – the military/industrial complex apparatus that was destroying us all, polluting the air and, in the end, igniting the world in a final conflagration. “Don’t trust anyone over thirty” was our mantra.
As many of you know, I’m in the middle of writing a new book titled, “The Fiction of our Lives” (forthcoming from Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers, in the fall of 2016) – among other things a cultural and social commentary on our Boomer generation as we came of age in the ’60s and ’70s. I’m working now on chapter five, draft titled, “My Sweet Lord: God’s Lure and the Life Well Lived.” Among other things, I will take a look at our generation’s search for community apart from traditional religion.
In thinking about the opening of this new chapter, I remembered a book of poetry that I bought back then titled, “Are You Running With Me Jesus?” The writer’s name is Malcolm Boyd – a radical social activist and Episcopal priest who, at the time of the book’s publication (1967 in paperback, which sold for 75 cents at the time!), worked with such groups as the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and Students for a Democratic Society. The poems (written as prayers actually) were divided into topics that included prayers for racial freedom, a free society, the city, and sexual freedom; and meditations on the cross.
I have a copy of this paperback in my hands – a well-worn copy, with pages that are now yellowing. It has occupied a spot on a shelf in my bedside table for many years. Even though I haven’t read the poems for a long time, the opening one is ingrained in my brain. The title is, “It’s morning, Jesus. It’s morning, and here’s that light and sound all over again.” And it ends thus:
Where am I running? You know these things
I can’t understand. It’s not that I need to have you
tell me. What counts most is just that somebody
knows, and it’s you. That helps a lot.
So I’ll follow along, okay? But lead, Lord.
Now I’ve got to run. Are you running with me,
Jesus? (Pg. 19)
I like that. I always liked that! And somehow, it still seems fitting as I run through my days. And of course there are days that we run. And there are days that we walk. And I guess there are days when we can barely stand, hoping that with a little help from our friends we can actually move forward once again.
I may already have shared the following poem in one of my blog postings, but even if so, it seems very fitting as a contemporary expression of Malcolm Boyd’s poem prayer. Isobel de Gruchy, a South African writer and artist and a dear friend – one of the best contemporary poets I know – has written a book of poetry titled, “Walking On.” And the first and title poem, “Walk On, Walk On,” was written sometime after she and her husband John’s son, Steve, died in a tragic drowning accident. So they’ve known those days when one could hardly stand. And yet she writes:
Walk on, walk on, into the unknown way,
Dark though it seems with obstacles and fears,
God will direct our steps both night and day.
The path winds up a mountain steep and grey,
The green and pleasant way quite disappears,
Walk on, walk on, into the unknown way.
You’re all alone, you find no one will stay.
All you have left are memories and tears,
God will direct your steps both night and day.
But now some friends walk at your side and they
Will help you bear the burden of your cares;
Walk on, walk on, into the unknown way.
Tempted to take it easy and delay
You may imagine God no longer hears,
But still he directs your steps both night and day.
And there are also times of joyful play,
And celebrations as years follow years.
So walk on, walk on, into the unknown way.
Let God direct your steps both night and day. (Pg. 1)
Isobel’s poetry will also be published in this country by my own publisher, Wipf And Stock. I’ll let you know in a future blog posting when it will be out for you to purchase. In the meantime, I just checked on the Internet, and Malcolm Boyd’s book – republished in recent years – is available, including in Kindle edition. I recommend that you get hold of a copy and pray with these poems that are still very relevant in today’s world.