If the Southern US’s Bible Belt had happened to be Buddhist instead, Avalokiteshvara, she who hears the cries of sentient beings who need her help, certainly would have been the Patron Saint of the Blues.
The Blues offered us a detailed, honest, and bare description of the suffering that arises when we treat each other as separate from ourselves. The era may have passed but suffering has changed little, even since the day of the Buddha. The great thing about the Blues is that there was almost always a ray of hope. Whether it be in this life or after, there would be an end to the suffering.
Each week, I’d like to offer a recording, so that we may put on Avalokitishvara’s ears for a moment and listen to the cries of the world, and hopefully come away with a touch of understanding.
I’d like to start with Josh White, a man who lived what he sang. In 1921, as a seven-year old boy, he witnessed his father dragged through the streets and beaten to death for having thrown a white bill collector from his house. Two months later, he left his home to lead Blind Man Arnold, a blind blues musician, through the South. In return, Blind Man Arnold would send his mother $2 a week. Along the road, they would occasionally pass chain gangs singing as they labored. Josh never forgot these and, in 1958, recorded an album of chain gang songs. The opening track, Trouble, is a very telling account of one mans experience of being locked away. The opening verse must have been especially touching for Josh, but also pay attention to the last line of the chorus, “Jailbreak’s due someday…” A great metaphor for Nirvana!
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May this help make the Monday Morning Blues not so bad~