sweet jane and reviving our hearts for justice...

Tonight I will join with my colleagues and new student friends from Williams College for an evening of song, dance, art, prayer and spoken word. "Reviving Our Hearts for Justice" is an invitation to "revive our hearts for resistance and action" to the current madness. 

Through song, poetry, dance, speakers, this special evening will inspire our hearts for the urgent work of justice and peace that is so threatened in our nation. Think of it as a community gathering to galvanize moral dissent to the injustice unleashed against so many people, particularly refugees, immigrants, and people of color. Community and student organizations are invited to table before and during the event. Confirmed speakers include Williams College Chaplain Rick Spalding, Williams College Muslim Chaplain Sharif Rosen, Eleanore Velez (Berkshire Community College), Peg Kern (Northern Berkshires for Racial Justice), Brian Morrison (Berkshire Central Labor Council), Sherwood Guernsey (Four Freedoms Coalition), Warren Dews and many more to be confirmed. Music curated by Brad Wells, Williams College Choral Director.

Yesterday I was invited to bring a tune to this happening - and was delighted to be asked. I
spent time playing through a variety of possible songs from Springsteen's "Reason to Believe" and U2's "Pride in the Name of Love" to Bob Franke's "Alleluia, The Great Storm is Over" and Carrie Newcomer's "If Not Now Tell Me When?" All are powerful and each share a unique gift in the practice of reviving our hearts for justice. But none resonated with me as I was looking for something wildly counter-intuitive. And then it hit me:  my quiet and even tender take on Lou Reed's rock and roll masterpiece "Sweet Jane." And here's why:

+ I see St.Lou as the link between the best of the Beat Poets in the 50s - think Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti - and Lady Gaga or Beyonce in our era. Specifically, Lou Reed was the consummate people's artist. He was high brow in his aesthetic and low down with his delivery. He mashed up words, sounds, time, space and grooves in a way that celebrated freedom in all of its unruly forms. He was a true genre bender empowering outsiders to trust their God-given identity as a blessing. And he challenged us all to understand and honor our quest for liberation sexually, politically, artistically, emotionally  and intellectually.

+ Brother Reed was never sentimental, but always a champion for love. He put himself into the middle of conflicts on behalf of the wounded and discarded, just like Bonhoeffer described Jesus. In "Sweet Jane" he offers us a vision of love that starts with a couple who look buttoned up and unhip. Jack's in a corset - gender bending or just uptight? - and Jane's in a vest - like Annie Hall or something more trans? - while Lou is wearing the uniform of a rock and roller. Jack and Jane listen to classical music and save their money while Lou rides in his Stutz Bearcat acting out of control. But they did it for love.  They sacrificed for love. They played their parts for love. And that's something each new generation is called to celebrate: we ALL have to make choices and compromises, so do it for love and blessings will follow.

"Sweet Jane" is an anti elitist -protest song on one level directed to all the 60s hipsters who derided the Silent Majority as square and evil without ever knowing them personally. It is a metaphorically creative expression of the many nuanced layers to a person's life. And it is a hymn to love in all its saving glory.  As some of you know, I was knocked on my ass by St. Lou's death four years ago. In ways that are mystical to me, I feel called to carry the flame of his devotion to unsentimental love to those who might never have heard him. And so, as part of our reviving our heart for justice, I'll share "Sweet Jane" as a gritty song of grace.


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