Mayor on Duty

The first of the year is a time for reflection of looking back and looking ahead. As I reflect, I am reminded of two pieces of music that my wife shared with me this past year. I embraced them as songs of attitude and action.

They were recorded by old rock stars who, despite their age, continue the creative journey of producing music. The songs are relatively new. Being 70, I classify something as new if it falls within the last 15 years. I view one as a sermon of sorts and one as a hymn.

The sermon is Ringo Starr’s 2017 hit, Standing Still. It begins with an existential rumination that when “you wake up, you have to make up your mind what you are gonna to do.” The lyrics go on to state that you can’t just sit there and do nothing because you’re the only one who can live your life.

Starr’s song includes the refrain, “it don’t mean nothing if you don’t do nothing, you’re just standing still.”  Many of us have the New Year’s resolution to get moving, and Ringo proclaims we can’t just stand there at the bottom of the hill. He urges us to put one foot forward, “get moving and grooving to the universe.” At the end of the song Ringo says, like a charismatic preacher delivering an exclamation to an inspiring sermon, “listen to me brothers and sisters.”

At this point some may wonder if Highlands’ mayor has gone crazy. What does this tune have to do with Highlands? My response, everything. I see so many of our citizens involved in community endeavors where they are not standing still. They do things every day that are meaningful to them, to others, and to the community. Listen to Ringo’s song if you need motivation for the new year. Our grandchildren dance to it on our kitchen floor!

The song that I love, a brilliantly crafted hymn, is Neal Young’s When God Made Me. He first sang it at the 2005 Farm Aid Benefit Concert. Its lyrics remind me that all human beings were made in the image of God, and none of us are superior to others.

Young’s beautifully simple song rhetorically asks, “What was God thinking when he made us?” There are a range of questions within the lyrics. Young asks if God was thinking about my country when he created me? The color of my skin? My religion and the way I worship him? Was every living thing made in his image, or just me? Young goes on to ask, did God plan only for believers or for those who just have faith? Did he envision all the wars fought in his name? Did God say there was only one way to be close to him? And did he give us the gift of love so we can say who are chosen?

He ends the song with the profound question, “Did he give me the gift of compassion to help my fellow man, when God made me?” There is a wonderful video of Young performing the song on the internet.

Listening to Starr’s sermonette inspires me to personal action, and Young’s hymn to strive for humility and commitment to others. Both songs give me hope we will start the year with movement to actions guided by respect and concern for one another, and that Highlands will continue to be a caring, compassionate community.

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