Pete Seeger turns 90 tomorrow. There is going to be a big celebration at Madison Square Garden. Performers include Bruce Springsteen, Wilco, Billy Bragg and many more. I wish I could have gotten it together to go. Pete is certainly a kindred spirit as far as this writer is concerned. I saw him once in 2003 at a small congegational church is Greenwich NY and talked with him briefly. I remember asking him who he was reading lately and he mentioned Barbara Kingsolver and Arundhati Roy. He definitely had what I want to call an "earthy, spiritual vibe". I don't know that he professes any religious belief and I could care less actually. Many of the best people I know are non-religious.
I was listening to public radio earlier today and there was a call in portion where folks could share their "Pete stories". There was one that really grabbed me. A few years back someone was going to see Pete at some smallish music hall. He wanted to get there early to ensure a decent seat. As he was in line waiting for the door to open he looked over his sholulder. There was Pete Seeger standing in line behind him. Pete Seeger was waiting in line to get into his own show! This typifies what many know to be the man. Humble, unpretentious, and radically egalitarian. He believes he is no better than anyone else and that he should get no special treatment. I have heard that this even goes as far as Pete insisting that his name appears on posters and tickets in the same size as all others on the bill, even if they are virtually unknown.
How cool is that? How refreshing!
It seems so much of our society is geared toward self-promotion. Everyone is quite concerned with insuring that they get their "credit, where credit is due". I am often the worst offender, I must admit.
Thank God for guys like Pete Seeger, someone of great achievement who does not feel the need to be constantly reminding everyone of the fact.
He was very reluctant, by the way, to take part in the big party tomorrow at MSG. There is a cool story behind why he agreed to let it go forward, but I'll let you dig that one up yourself.
This reminds me of another guy of great achievement who likes to keep it simple. The Dalai Lama. This coming Wednesday, on May 6th, I am going the see him at the Palace Theatre in nearby Albany NY. Here is a man who is the head of very complex, ritualized, world religion. But for all of this, here is how he breaks it down:
"There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophy. Your own mind, your own heart is the temple. The philosophy is kindness".
Basic. Simple. One might even say quite "Seeger-like". Can you dig?
Now, if you got a few minutes, tell me what you believe. What is your "religion"? (or "philosophy" if you prefer that word).
As Frasier Crane would say....I'm listening.