Sunday, 29 April 2012

Sermon on Bobby McGee

It was a conversation on "freedom" that called to mind that sentiment in the Kristofferson/Foster song (recorded so many times), "Me and Bobby McGee". The line is "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose".

I take it as a bitter line; we jokingly say that people after a relationship has ended (or before one starts) are "free", but free from what? Free from responsibility, sure. Free from the demands that one person makes on another's time, energy, personal space. But as the singer says, if your freedom means there's nothing left to lose - what good is freedom? Sure, he's free to find another love, to behave badly, to do whatever he wants - no longer enslaved to another's seemingly insistent urges to travel the southern United States on an assortment of traffic - but in the process, he's lost everything that mattered.

And yet it reminds me of that great road movie, Clockwise. Given one last chance to make the Headmasters' Conference on time, Stimpson remarks, " It's not the despair, Laura. I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand." As long as Stimpson thinks he's failed, he is set free. It is when he still has a hope of success that he can't stand it. For Stimpson, having nothing left to lose is freedom. Is that why Jesus told the young rich man to give away everything he had? By having nothing left to lose, would he be free - as Marley was not, dragging his money behind him through all eternity? Would Stimpson's life have been better had he just given up the Headmasters' Conference, the ambition, the slavery to the clock - and gone to live on a farm and keep chickens?

Or is the message of "Me and Bobby McGee" that we should gather our rosebuds while we may? In that brief half-hour of summer we can expect this year, between the droughty floods of Spring and the floody droughts of Autumn - you may just see the one rosebud. Grab it while you may - assuming that it is legal and safe to do so. I would strongly recommend ye leave any rosebuds alone that ye may see in your local municipal park or trip to a stately home - these are not your rosebuds to gather. But if they are your own rosebuds, then gather them while ye may. For the summer is a fleeting beauty, and we are fragile creatures that flit through the light, and peer dimly into the future.

As the singer of the song reflects, he'd trade all his tomorrows for a single yesterday, holding Bobby's body close to his. Some might reflect that it serves him right for hitching up with a girl who is clearly unhappy simply to accept the name "Roberta", and instead feels the need for shortness and informality so popular in these troubled times. But others will recognise that feeling. As a singer of the same era remarked, you don't know what you've got till it's gone. Best to enjoy paradise before they put up a parking lot - grab the rosebud while it's there - and make the most of hugging Ms McGee before she heads off looking for the home you'll hope she'll find.

And if we end up feeling that we'd trade all our tomorrows for a single yesterday, then it must have been a superb yesterday at the time.

1 comment :

  1. Or just let go, for as Buddha said, life is suffering and suffering is caused by attachment.

    Go on - let go of that tea light you're gripping.


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