Everything is Beautiful
I was on my stationary bike this morning. I am at the beginning, again, of trying to work off my “Covid 15.” I was pretty good at keeping it off until June. Then, BAM! I pulled out the stops, and began really chowing down on good food and drink. The Summer begets grilled meat, mayonnaise-laden salads, tons of carbs and, of course, cold beer. Also, there are particular ways I “reward myself” when I am not particularly feeling up to snuff. I am a pretty good home cook and bartender, and I love being creative in the kitchen, and I have a penchant for good food and drink. The pounds were only a natural progression and eventuality. But, I am feeing unfit in body, mind and spirit, and I always feel better when I move and exercise. So, here we are.
My exercise today helped me more than I expected. I got the physical boost, but, I was lagging a little in the spirit department. So, I threw on some music, and chose “The 70’s” on Sirius.
I am not a big believer in coincidence. I believe things happen for reasons, and they happen at the right time. One needs to keep their eyes and minds and hearts open for these phenomena. This is not some big epiphany; this is me putting on the 70’s channel looking for some nostalgic feel good music. I found it.
Ray Stevens’ Everything is Beautiful came on. The beginning of that song, if you’re old enough to remember, features, at its open, a little ditty sung by a group of small children. I remember when I was young, and this song came on the AM station du jour, I didn't like it, and didn't care to listen to it. I rolled my eyes, endured it, and hoped for Santana, Diana Ross or Elton John to come on afterward. We didn’t have random access back then, kids. You got what the DJ put on, or you changed the station. (Don’t get me going on the nightmare of 8-track).
Anyway, today was similar. This song came on, I was on my bike at the beginning of my workout, and I rolled my eyes, but stuck it out.
The children sang the hymn:
Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red and yellow black and white
They are precious in his sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world.
I couldn’t help but think about today and the multiple levels of strife we have in this country, and I thought, “Cripes, I can’t get away from people preaching to me, even if I time warp back to a different era.”
Then, Ray starts to play on the piano. And after a few seconds, I felt a release. I felt, well, optimistic and positive. This is exactly the reason why I actually wanted to put on music instead of a podcast or a news station when I was working out today. I needed a break from reality. Music does that for me. And I wanted specifically 70’s music, the music of my childhood. I was 7 when this song was released in 1970, and won 2 Grammys in 1971. Music transcends time and space and body, and can put you in a frame of being which is not achievable by many other experiences.
I sat there, and said to myself, “How could you not love this song?”
Ray began to sing:
Everything is beautiful
in it’s own way…
under God’s heaven,
the world’s gonna find a way.
In these days of discord, in politics, in sexual identity and in racial conversations, this song, released a half a century ago cuts through all the garbage and noise with one simple message that I think we may have all forgotten: That everyone and everything has beauty, is worthy of love, and deserves respect. It tells us that we should open our minds and hearts to others and their opinions and thoughts. We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, in a sense. You can still maintain a difference of opinion, and thought, and morals, but the message of the day is be kind to your fellow human and your planet. The message here is an ideal we’ve been struggling with for much, much more than a half a century. The big difference between NOW and 1970, though, is the extreme and harsh way we are treating one other, and the acute divisions that have been sewn into the fabric of our culture.
I did not have my finger on the pulse of politics when I was 7. My parents were not politically-inclined, and we didn’t live in the heart of an inner city. I lived a care-free, happy childhood. My tiny world had me carefully surveying and reigning over the backyard, and later had me confidently exploring my portion of the Catskill mountains of southern New York. I didn’t have anxiety or stress. I wasn’t on pills or seeing therapists. My parents, who, were not well-off by a long shot, worked hard and kept us out of the common strife of life. We were on a need-to-know basis on most conflict, and that kept me innocent, open and level through childhood, and until I possessed the mental capacity and emotional wherewithal to process heavier things.
I sang to the radio to John Denver, the Carpenters, and Neil Diamond. We went to family chicken barbecues in the summer. We ran around from dawn to dusk outside wrestling in the grass, eating dirt, building forts and skinning our knees. We swam in lakes and ponds, rode mini bikes, and caught crayfish in the stream.
Even though I felt like we grew up in the middle of nowhere, there were people of color in our school – Blacks, Asians, Latino, and we had many Jewish families. I sat next to them, learned with them, and laughed with them. To me, we were all struggling to become who we would eventually become. We were all different, but we were all the same. Like everyone, I suppose, I always felt different from everyone else, but as a kid, everyone is their own worst enemy. Eventually, you hopefully grow out of it or grow into it. I did the latter.
But, back to Ray and his song, and the uplifting message I deliver to you today. Everyone is beautiful, but we sometimes lose sight of that. We lose it in our vicious Facebook and Twitter postings; we lose it during our our behind-the-wheel raging lunatic reactions to the A-hole in front of us; and we lose it as “Our” side spews vitriolic venom at “Their” side, and as one side brutally blames the other for the various unsavory situations in which we find ourselves.
I challenge you today, to take five minutes to truly put yourself in the shoes of the “other side” of any disagreement. Now, you don’t have to actually believe the other side, or even see that side of the story. BUT, position yourself as the other person, and look at and feel how you treat others: their opinions, their ways of understanding, and their ways of life. They have life experience, and a view, and worth, just as you do. You don't have to understand it, but you must accept it and move forward.
Ray simply sings:
There is none so blind
as he who will not see.
We must not close our minds,
we must let our thoughts be free.
I suggest you go listen to Ray Stevens today. I know it’s hokey, and I know you might not like dig that kind of music (I know your excuses…It’s BUG MUSIC, or pop music, or folk music or stuff from the 70’s @@ Get over it.) You might think I’m crazy, and I kind of agree with that. BUT, you can’t help feeling better after listening to this song, and recalling a bygone era of hope.
From the simple words, to the not one, but two, inspiring and optimistic key changes, to the chorus of uplifting supporting voices joining Ray in the chorus. All THIS is from the guy who brought you Guitarzan, Ahab the Arab and The Streak. I’d say it’s a bit of a departure from his usual fare, but worth the 3 minutes and 44 seconds.
Everything is beautiful,
in it’s own way,
like a starry Summer night,
or a snow-covered Winter’s day.
Everybody’s is beautiful,
in their own way,
under God’s heaven,
the world’s gonna find a way.
Go forth, and be beautiful.