How do we celebrate the spirit of diversity in song? And why is this an important question?
Well, many scholars have pointed out that music leads and shapes cultural change. Music is associated with our deepest memories. Music moves millions.
So, today, let’s see how accurately we can recall some famous verses about the spiritual values behind diversity and community.
Today’s quiz is a fill-in-the-blank, multiple-choice challenge.
1.) The Shakers always welcomed visitors into their utopian communities, a hospitality that nearly destroyed the movement during the Civil War. Their most famous song includes these lines:
“‘Tis the gift to be simple; ’tis the gift ______
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be.”
A. to agree
B. to be free
C. to be me
2.) Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” had a rocky start as a book, but endures to this day as a major contribution to American literature. Whitman thought of poetry as akin to music. The opening line to one of his most famous verses, which included vignettes from the lives of carpenters, masons and women working, too, began this way:
“I hear American singing, the varied ____ I hear.”
3.) Bob Dylan recently won the Pulitzer Prize — quite an honor after an incredibly varied and stormy career. Many people only now are coming to appreciate the brilliant visions in his songs. Almost everyone can sing a few lines of “The Times They Are a Changin’.” But do you know the verses?
“Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don’t criticize what you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command
Your ______ is rapidly agin’!”
B. old road
4.) Emma Lazarus, the poet associated with the Statue of Liberty, gave us powerful poetry to shape our diverse nation. She closed with these unforgettable lines:
“Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me:
I lift my lamp beside _______.”
A. the golden door
B. America’s strong arms
C. a land of liberty
5.) Robert Frost recited “The Gift Outright” at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, just 2 years before the poet died at age 88. Key lines in the poem were:
“Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ______
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.”
A. our riches
C. our freedom
6.) People may have chuckled at Mr. Rogers and his handy sweater, but this PBS host is sorely missed five years after his death. He might have been the most famous Presbyterian pastor in the world. Millions know his trademark song, but it’s the second verse that has the most brilliant touch of poetry.
“It’s a neighborly day in this beauty-wood,
A neighborly day for _____.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?”
A. a visit
B. a cup of tea
C. a beauty
7.) American folksinger and activist Pete Seeger often drew on traditional hymns, adapted in fresh ways. One of his most powerful was adapted from the 1860 hymn, “How Can I Keep from Singing.” Among his adaptations was a change in a key line of the hymn. The original 1860 word filled the blank below with “Christ” as the ruler of the Earth and Heavens. Pete followed a tradition that reportedly came from the Carolinas in which a different term for the divine was substituted. In making that little change, among others, Seeger turned a song of evangelical crusading into a universal hymn. The lines:
“No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I’m clinging.
Since _____ is lord of Heaven and Earth
How can I keep from singing?”
8.) Our understanding of John Lennon’s life, music and activism
continues to evolve. Many still have reservations about his role as a
modern-day prophet, but so far he’s shaping up in our historical record
as a memorable, visionary voice. His hymn for living peacefully in
diversity was “Imagine,” which included:
“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no ____ too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace.”
B. more weapons
9.) Woodie Guthrie wrote another great American song that we all
know by heart — even if we all too often forget the meaning of its refrain. The
“As I was walking a ribbon of highway
I saw above me an endless skyway
I saw below me a golden valley
This land was made _______”
A. for liberty
B. for all to see
C. for you and me
10.) Let’s close with Maya Angelou’s verses written for the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. She pretty much telegraphs her theme in the title, “A Brave and Startling Truth: Dedicated to the hope for peace, which lies, sometimes hidden, in every heart.” Among the lines are these:
“We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without __________
Without crippling fear.”
A. sanctimonious piety
B. hunger crushing hope
If you’re reading the online version of our story today, CLICK on the LINK below to see the answers pop up. If you’re reading this in an RSS feed or our free daily Email service (there’s a link on our page to sign up for these convenient services), then the answers already are visible here:
THE ANSWERS …
And, if you’ve been reading along with us at ReadTheSpirit, then you had an added boost in tackling today’s quiz. The answers to a number of questions were included in our National Day of Prayer posting last week.
1.) B. The Shakers were all about agreement within their communities — but they weren’t obsessed with forcing those outside their community to agree with them. In fact, they loved having the freedom to build their communities and the freedom to conduct commerce with the larger community, at the same time. The Shakers were famous for their inventions and marketing from flat brooms and circular saw blades to seeds in paper packets.
2.) C. Whitman saw Americans — in all their grassroots diversity — as living hymns celebrating life.
3.) B. Dylan used the metaphor of a road — because, in his next line, he told folks who didn’t embrace change to “Please get out of the new one — if you can’t lend a hand.” Not bad advice, even today, hmmm?
4.) A. “The golden door” became a powerful symbol to millions. There’s even a pretty good movie, now available on DVD, called “The Golden Door.” CLICK on the cover at right to jump to our review of the film and you can even order a copy, if you wish.
5.) B. Frost was in his 80s when JFK was inaugurated and the story goes that he wrote a poem for the occasion, but had trouble reading it. So, he recited a much earlier poem that he knew by heart. And, in a way, it was a golden moment. The poem was from the era of World War II and talked about self sacrifice as the essential component of building a national community. Poems like these — songs of the American spirit, at its best — would be great texts to study in an interfaith setting.
6.) C. What a terrific touch in his daily song — reminding his viewers, whoever they were, that each was “a beauty” he was welcoming into his neighborhood. Gosh, we miss Mr. Rogers, don’t we?
7.) C. Seeger made other adaptations, as well. If you haven’t heard his music — or haven’t listened to it in years — he’s well worth searching out online or in the CD section of stores.
8.) C. Even though Lennon grew up in a parish in the UK and was active in his youth group, his life took him to places, experiences and insights that often set him at odds with religious leaders. Sometimes, his comments were misunderstood, like his puzzled observation that the Beatles’ fans were treating the band like they were more famous than Jesus. But, by the time Lennon wrote “Imagine,” he had attained a prophetic status and deliberately was summoning provocative visions to help people see new possibilities. Whether he truly wanted to end all religious faith is debatable. But he certainly was critiquing faith that divides the world, rather than seeking to unite it peacefully.
9.) C. As we listen to the great songs about living together in all our diversity, we begin to realize that voices like Lennon’s didn’t suddenly appear out of some angry vacuum. They are part of a chorus of critics, rattling the doors of our houses of worship, calling on us to get out and help the entire community. While most of us can sing along with the first verses of Woody’s terrific song, very few of us recall this verse:
“In the squares of the city —
In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office — I see my people
And some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’
If this land’s still made for you and me.”
Somehow, we forget to sing this part of the song.
10.) A. She sounds a lot like John Lennon in these lines, too, doesn’t she?
At ReadTheSpirit, we’re people who believe that, at our best, our spiritual values guide us toward better lives and stronger communities. But there are great dangers, as well, in this powerful realm of faith.
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