Category Archives: humanitarians

James Durst- World Weaver of Peace and Song

James DurstThis past week my friend James Durst passed away.  On the surface, it is tragic for he was only 71 and left behind his beautiful wife Madhumita. But when you look at James and the life he lived, he was not a tragic figure. Even with his passing, he managed to fool everyone, who thought he had gone last Thursday. James held out until the wee hours of Friday to leave on April Fool’s day perhaps as a way of telling us not to remain too down hearted.

Elizabeth Gilbert asks in her new book Big Magic: “Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?”

James had the courage and did.

For fifty-one years, James travelled the globe, playing in over 200 cities in 45 countries.  He played in all fifty states in America alone.  He sang in some two dozen languages and incorporated them into his songs.  His drive was, as he would say, “to reflect a global perspective and underscore the interconnectedness we share with all of life.” He didn’t just sing about peace, he put himself into places where many of us would not have been comfortable and made the people he sang to feel his love, even if they didn’t understand his words.

He not only won awards and had honors for his own work but was always promoting the work of others.  He formed a band called the Work of the Weavers to pass on the pioneering legacy of Pete Seeger and the Weavers, whose humanitarian and environmental aims echoed his own.

In his song, I wish you good evening James says: “May you know someone loves and appreciates all that you are.” This is the main reason that James’ life far exceeds his death.  Not only did he love and appreciate those around him but he knew the true love, support and full partnership of his beloved Madhumita, who made him feel that he mattered as much as he did.

Before sharing the full lyrics to his song, which I feel represents his work clearly, I would like to quote the character of Death in Terry Pratchett’s book, Shephard’s Crown:

“FOR I CAN SEE THE BALANCE AND YOU HAVE LEFT THE WORLD MUCH BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT, AND IF YOU ASK ME, said Death, NOBODY COULD DO ANY BETTER THAN THAT. . . .”― Terry Pratchett

I Wish You Good Evening (James Durst) (w/Howard Levy, harmonica solo) ‘Wish I Were Here’ CD by James Durst.

“I wish you clear sailing/ I wish you calm seas /May your sails come to life On the sweet billowed breath of a breeze/ I wish you safe harbor/ I wish you sweet dreams /May your tempest be never so Troubled and tossed as it seems /I wish you clear vision /I wish you strong voice /May you walk straight an’ tall Down the well-lighted path of your choice

I wish you good lover
I wish you true friend
May you find ‘neath the guise of one person
A balance and blend
I wish you full dance card
I wish you full moon
May the band know the music and words
To your favorite tune
I wish you full belly
I wish you square meals
May you only know hunger for knowledge
And thirst for ideals

I wish you bold venture/ I wish you bright star/ May you know someone loves and appreciates all that you are/ I wish you rich harvest /I wish you glad heart

May your work in the world Transcend work and come closer to art/ I wish you good evening/  I wish you god speed/ May your journey through life Be focused and purposeful, rich and rewarding, Ennobling in spirit, in thought, word and deed In thought, word and deed.”

-James Durst © PhoeniXongs ASCAP

May you be regaled more than this while you are still here.

Humanity’s band of merry makers

gandhi_mlkThroughout our history, both individually and collectively, amid the chaos and tumultuous conflicts, there has been a quiet stream of interactions that have upheld the spirit of our humanity.  Sometimes we have gained shelter from a story, a book, a writer who provided us with the best we have to offer in the context of fantasy, fiction, history or by directly offering us another option.  Sometimes we gain what James Joyce calls aesthetic arrest from paintings or artwork, which act like portals that connect us to all of life instantly.  Sometimes a single melody can transport us purely into the center of being in which are and always will be free.

There have been leaders, such as MLK, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, who use their faith and dedication to bring relief to those around them, inspiring communities to bring about benevolent change.  Then there are those people who open the door for you, run down the street to retrieve something the wind has carried away, speak up for you in a hostile crowd or offer you unsolicited comfort.

This stream of merry makers in all their various forms call out to us to join them.  In all likelihood, we have been among them periodically and delight in their dance that mirrors the depths of love.

As this week of Thanksgiving marches on and we take in the news, encounter marketing ploys, calculated entertainment, holiday anxiety, we may get jostled and frazzled. Lean on whatever centers you and join the parade that is hidden in plain sight.

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“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

-Anne Frank

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!