Different Kinds of Artists

We’re different kinds of artists
You and me
in both our aims and our results
We see the same things
but through different pairs of eyes
and the color you call green
is the one that I call black

The fingers I use to hold my brush
has been broken for long years
The smile you use to calm the crowd
will never give up

The trees you thought you found
me sleeping under
were telephone poles
or cell phone towers
or lampposts
or one-way signs

The sun I thought I found you
reaching toward
was a different kind of light
and the color I call gold
is the one that you call grey

Your baby is my old lady
My foot is your calculator
Your window is my brick wall
My river is your turnpike
your sky is my tomb
My kitten is your dragonfly

We’re different kinds of artists
You and I


OK, Boomer

There is something that happens between every generation when the younger one begins to supplant the older one. And it’s not always pretty. Especially for the older one.


The older generation for me, when mine was the younger one, lived through The Great Depression and World War II, witnessing horrors I couldn’t understand. Horrors that I viewed through the safe lens of knowing how they ended. After the second world war, the generation that experience it wanted to raise their children with the security and comfort that they had missed. The unintended consequence of that desire is that we grew up happier and freer, with the luxury of time to explore more curious desires than simple survival. My generation, whose irresponsible consumption led to environmental disaster, and whose indulgence of bigots led to a dangerously unfit president, has no right to get offended when the generation that is coming of age now tells us, “OK, Boomer, we’ll take it from here. Please get out of our way while we clean up your mess.”

Inevitable resentments fester between an older generation looking for respect and a younger generation looking for freedoms that seem overindulgent to the generation who fought so hard to obtain them. Better inevitabilities also rise in the relationship between generations, including understanding, love, and music.

my sweet old world

Most of my favorite songs were written in the decade between 1965 and 1975. Something extraordinary happened to songwriting in those years, a revolution sparked by the perfect storm of technological advances in audio production, lyrical and sonic experimentation fueled by psychedelic drugs, and a particular form of genius that came to life in an unlikely place called Liverpool. Unlike the songwriting of previous decades that appealed to its teenage listeners by alienating their parents’ generation, writers like Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, John Sebastian, and Cat Stevens reached across the generations to explore some complex relationships.

John Sebastian wrote and recorded “Younger Generation” with his band The Lovin’ Spoonful.

Why must every generation think their folks are square?
And no matter where their heads are they know mom’s ain’t there?
‘Cause I swore when I was small that I’d remember when
I knew what’s wrong with them that I was smaller then

Determined to remember all the cardinal rules
Like sun showers are legal grounds for cutting school
I know I have forgotten maybe one or two
And I hope that I recall them all before the baby’s due

Here he is performing it at Woodstock:

Cat Stevens took a more direct approach in his song about the relationship between “Father & Son” by singing in the voice of each of them.

In a father’s voice:

I was once like you are now, and I know that it’s not easy
To be calm when you’ve found something going on
But take your time, think a lot
Why, think of everything you’ve got
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not

Answered in a son’s voice:

How can I try to explain? ‘Cause when I do he turns away again
It’s always been the same, same old story
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go

One of the most famous and heartfelt examinations of this subject came in a song written by Graham Nash and recorded with his cohorts Crosby, Stills, and Young in his piece “Teach your Children.”

Teach your children well,
Their father’s hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks, the one you’ll know by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you.

And you, of tender years,
Can’t know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth,
They seek the truth before they can die.

Teach your parents well,
Their children’s hell will slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks, the one you’ll know by.

Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.


The Roaring Twenties

The first couple of decades of a new century are like a hangover: the opposite of a fresh start. All the mistakes of the recent past are still festering in the blood, making us sick and stupid, and bringing out the worst in us.

The third decade brings with it the roar of the new century. It wasn’t until the 1920s that the era we usually think of as the 20th Century was born. The age of jazz and Hollywood, of automobiles and airplanes, took life as the people who were born in that century – or so late in the previous one that it didn’t have time to get its claws in them – started coming of age, free of the fears and prejudices of the generations before them.

The world in the 1920s

The 21st Century is beginning in 2020. In the same way that the 20th Century had to dig itself out of the rubble of the 19th Century’s twin curses of slavery and patriarchy, the 21st Century will have to finish those struggles and confront the twin curses of the 20th Century: communism and capitalism. It took two world wars and decades of dedication to civil rights movements to advance us through the 20th Century. I have no doubt that the backlash of ignorance and violence that has allowed the worst parts of our societies to gain power in America and around the world will follow the same path as the Confederacy, Nazi Germany, and al Queda into eternal shame.

The 2020s will need to roar with a voice even louder than the one from the 1920s that is still echoing today. We will need to understand how social media has distorted the way we receive information before we can speak with a clear, honest voice. If we learn how to speak to each other, without fear, in the language of love and mercy, our roar will echo down the centuries and millennia as one of the most important turning points in the long road of our evolution from primitive bigotry, fear, and violence to enlightenment.

“Your entire life is a curriculum. Everything you’ve got on your plate is where the stuff for your enlightenment is. It’s breathtaking when you see the beauty of this design.”

Ram Dass

We’re all in this together…

2020 Vision

“and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
– John 8:32

The stories we tell ourselves determine who we become so we have to be careful not to tell ourselves lies.

In the stories we have been telling ourselves lately, values like generosity and humility are sacrificed on the alter of the disease that the powerful call “winning.” Honesty and decency, two of the pillars of society, are devalued by choice when one of America’s two major political parties has turned their back on these values by elevating a man to whom they are anathema. Such choices have consequences. What was born as the party of Honest Abe is now dying as the party of Dishonest Donald. Because we have a president who is an unapologetic liar, and a party that has tied itself to his sinking ship, the future is up to those of us who still believe the truth matters. We have wallowed in our own filth long enough, acting more like slaves than free people.

They keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
And you think you’re so clever and classless and free
But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see
– John Lennon


Lies are not the only things that obscure a clear view of the truth. Drugs and disease can do it, so can fear and hate, and all forms of prejudice and preconception. Even otherwise-positive qualities like tradition and love can blind us to evolving truths.

With the eyes of a child
You must come out and see
That your world’s spinning ’round
And through life you will be
A small part of a hope
Of a love that exists
In the eyes of a child you will see
– John Lodge

We are not machines. For us, a completely objective evaluation of facts is not possible. A lifetime of experiences colors all of our perceptions. Our memories are recalled through our current state of mind. Any opportunity we have to take a fresh look at our perceptions is a gift that we should appreciate.

This turning of the page, the fresh calendar that greets us this morning, with the year 2020 at the top of every page, gives us a unique chance to write something true in the box of each day, to disregard the easy lies being fed us by the worst people in our world, and concentrate on the difficult truths, before we are swept away under the harsh sentence of history.

A new year, a new decade, a new chance to reverse the obvious errors of the early years of this new century and new millennium. Here’s hoping for a greater clarity in our vision this year, for telling ourselves better stories, stories of hope and humility, of generosity and justice. And for a clear-eyed, unblinking view of reality going forward.