"Just as Long as I Have Breath"
Text by Alicia S. Carpenter:
Just as long as I have breath, I must answer, 'Yes' to life;
though with pain I made my way, still with hope I meet each day.
If they ask what I did well, tell them I said, 'Yes', to life
Just as long as vision lasts, I must answer, 'Yes' to truth;
in my dream and in my dark, always: that elusive spark.
If they ask what I did well, tell them I said, 'Yes' to truth.
Just as long as my heart beats, I must answer, 'Yes' to love;
disappointment pierced me through, still I kept on loving you.
If they ask what I did best, tell them I said, 'Yes' to love.
Typing this text out makes me like it more than singing it did. The tune to this piece is a little too hymn-like for my liking, in a predictable hymn way. But reading these lines, I wonder what the writer's life is like, what was happening when she wrote these lines, what has happened to her since she wrote them.
I think about the courage that it takes to continue to strive for what one believes is right, as one grows older; as I grow older. There is a reason that activists are mostly young, that angry energy of youth can be well suited to tilting at windmills. My radical acts are very few and far between these days: if it's not a habit, like recycling, I don't have the time to devote to it. My energy goes into my family, or my personal, selfish pursuits: music, handwork, reading, sewing. I don't like to think a lot about what drove me at 23, I'm not sure that the me from then would recognize me now, if it weren't for the same basic physical shape. Heck, even that is morphing in ways I'm not so fond of.
An embarassing truth: I recently got the last Peter, Paul and Mary album, and I don't like it much. It's not just that the songs don't have attractive hooks, it's that I'm uncomfortable thinking about these people in their sixties being activists. There's a rigid part of me that believes that the old folks should sit back and pray, or read to their grandkids, or write memoirs. What are these people doing talking about the environment and human rights? I really hate that I'm thinking like this. I want to weed it out.