Here, I explore and celebrate the process and productions of bards who are also bodhisattvas.
In an early blog post about The Bodhisattva Dilemma, I shared that Will, as in Shakespeare, was my first love. While he may be known as "The Bard" bards are writers, poets, songwriters, singers & actors. I look forward to sharing work that illuminates The Bodhisattva Dilemma and may help us hold and resolve it.
Maya Angelou wrote, "Poetry gives you a backbone so you can stand your life."
A review of web-based interviews and articles about Hulu’s biopic The United States vs. Billie Holiday shows this film was not critically acclaimed and it may not be historically accurate, but the story has me thinking. Billie Holiday, an American jazz and swing music singer, didn’t actually write the song, Strange Fruit. Abel Meeropol, a Russian Jewish immigrant and high school teacher actually composed it, but when Lady Day, as Billie Holiday was known, sang it, her voice captured listener’s attention. President Biden described the 2020 election as the one to save the soul of America. Chronically abused and mistreated, Ms. Holiday’s song embodied her own lived, physical, and psychic experiences. Holiday’s rendition of Strange Fruit was soulful first. Her rendition became political by extension.
It did not serve Billie to sing this song, closing show after show, by directing attention, bearing witness, and guiding audiences to face the strange evil undergirding a culture that allowed lynching to go unpunished. Billie Holiday was betrayed by lovers and harassed and punished by federal agents for insisting upon knowing what she knew about the existence of cruelty. Yet, she refused to be bullied into silence and would not stop singing. Her persistence is the primary message of this film.
Derived from a poem Meeropol called Bitter Fruit in 1937, and recorded by Billy Holiday is 1939, “Strange Fruit” was named “Song of the Century” by Time in 1999. Yet, today so many Americans live in fear of other Americans because of race, gender, class, environmental, and economic issues. It hurt Billie, cost her a lot to sing the song, and we have no certainty that her sacrifice ever caused any life-giving law to be codified. There is no doubt, her song moved and touched listeners. We can hope, but we will never know for sure, if her calling attention to cruelty and violence ever helped protect a single soul from unnecessary pain and suffering. Every time she closed her show with the controversial song, she embraced the Bodhisattva's Dilemma.
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