Monday, January 24, 2011

Time of the Preacher

'I could cry for the time I've wasted,
But that's just a waste of time and tears.
And I know just what I'd change, if I went back in time somehow.
But there's nothing I can do about it now.
I'm forgiving everything that forgiveness will allow,
And there's nothing I can do about it now.

For the most part, I wouldn't consider Willie Nelson a role model for my children or grandchildren. Willie's is a life unto itself, fully lived and the results can arguably, I think, be said to justify the means. What price music? Look at the geniuses and near geniuses throughout musical history. Most of the price for lives lived unconventionally has been borne by the artists themselves. The rest of us reap the reward. The talent and beauty that vanishes with the vessel may be our loss, but, then again, maybe that's all there was? Who's to know? At any rate, Willie Nelson defies that logic and that stereotype. A search on Amazon yields 2606 items related to Willie Nelson and music; this doesn't include clothing, pet food, movies or TV. I've been a fan since Red Headed Stranger days, falling in love with the Tale of the Preacher in the year of '01, Luckenbach Texas, and wringing my hankie through some of the saddest songs in any musical literature. I can forgive 'Angel Flying too Close to the Ground' and that fling with Julio Inglesias as musical outliers every time a snippet of past musical genius comes to mind.

Such is the case with 'Nothing I Can Do about it Now'. As a piece of music, its downright catchy, uptempo, foreshadowing the phrases 'wild and restless spirit' and 'set to the rhythm of the wheel'. The singer is shaking the dust of that place, that woman, that part of his life, off his boots and making tracks. Maybe its bitter, maybe its good riddance, but either way, it's over, it's past; the slate is wiped clean with the mantra, 'nothing I can do about it now'. Pretty standard country music sentiment; the kind of theme that works much better in movies than in real life.

But when the song came to mind last night, I looked up the lyrics and came to a different interpretation. Perhaps that's the benefit of age on my part, or perhaps the genius of great song writing, that folks at all 'phases and stages' can pull their lives out of the lyrics. There's more than a little constructive wisdom in Willie's last verse. What, after all, is to be gained by counting 'all the time I've wasted'? Why add insult to injury; why cry again? We can file our mistakes for future reference, but not future regret. Knowing what you'd do differently is armor for the future, not a weapon; its good defense and really dangerous offense. Maybe Willie is being flippant, but I don't think so. There are worse philosophies to carry around with you than the last phrase because it contains a magic word: forgiveness. Whether we inflict pain, we suffer pain, we bring pain upon ourselves; forgiveness is the solution. Perhaps we should forgive "all", but we'll be doing good if we manage to "forgive everything, that forgiveness can allow", because true and full forgiveness is beyond our human scope. 'Nothing we can do about it now' isn't morally neutral, isn't a cop out, or shirking of responsibility; its the only way we can avoid despair about our failings and go on with our lives with hope.

Its not 'Whiter than Snow', but, hey, its Willie Nelson.

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