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Musings-Gordon Lightfoot, Dad, Jesus , and Me

John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50)

Turning back the pages to the times I love best

I wonder if she'll ever do the same

Now the thing that I call living is just being satisfied

With knowing I got no one left to blame

From Gordon Lightfoot’s Carefree Highway

The great singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot died earlier this week. Beginning around the age of 13, I would spend countless hours playing his music in my bedroom, attempting to imitate his picking style. Equally important, as the seventies wore on and my father and I increasingly disagreed about nearly everything, we both enjoyed listening to this Canadian balladeer. I do not remember Dad ever yelling at me to turn down the record player as I wore out Gord’s GoLd.

In a period of life when so much of my dad and mine’s relationship was defined by our differences, Lightfoot’s music appealed to subterranean streams of commonality. My dad and Lightfoot were from the same generation; we both appreciated acoustic music that blurred the line between country-folk-pop-and rock; we were drawn to stories of life and songs expressing feelings of love and regret; and we both had an affinity for things Canadian. If we happened to be riding in the car together when a Gordon Lightfoot song came on the radio, it was as if an immediate ceasefire had gone into effect. Thank you, Mr., Lightfoot, RIP.

Jesus had this remarkable way of both promoting tolerance and drawing lines in the sand; an art that frankly is extremely difficult to imitate. I think part of this balancing act is found in seeing the world in a less adversarial way. If Jesus is right in that “everyone not against me is for me,” I can begin to be more generous in my attitude towards a lot of the world. And if I can be self-reflective enough to know “I got no one left to blame,” then I can do less projection and more self-reflection and repentance.


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