Once upon a time, America loved itself.
It loved what it was, what it stood for, what it was going to be. And isn't that the journey of every people and civilization throughout history? They begin with tremendous promise and fiery passion ... then relax and settle into the reflection of their illusions only to quickly lose the heart and spirit of what they aspired to be. Even today, we look around us and realize we are but a pale shadow of the moral greatness we hoped for.
Ghandi, as he watched his beloved India ripping itself apart, said:
"Where there is love, there is life."
Love is a wonderful, amazing, powerful and addictive human need. It's the nuclear fuel that powers us when we have it ... and the crippling blow that stops us cold when taken away. Love is our most powerful joy hanging by a fine thread connected to our greatest pain. Love is the universal solution to most problems. Ghandi’s point is that love is the very glue that holds this fragile human life together on this planet.
I observe our hometowns, our communities and the world and wonder, "What is so different today? What has changed from just a few decades ago?"
It occurred to me that, among other things, we have lost our sense of home, our sense of belonging, our sense of community. We are the most transient and unstable generation in America's history. We have surrendered our connection to nature, our roots and our heritage. Instead, we work in cubicles, make two dimensional friends online, limit our communication with each other to 140 character tweets, and live in apartments and neighborhoods without ever meeting or caring to know our neighbors.
The point is we no longer live in a delightful world of neighbors. Most people don’t “love” where they are, therefore they don’t have much inspiration to take care of it. Most new homes don’t even have front porches. Heck, they don't even include them on a new house anymore. They were abandoned with the advent of air conditioning and television as people retreated indoors and away from each other.
Once the center stage of a family's community spirit and joy, the front porch was where neighbors gathered for music and fellowship, coffee in the morning, iced tea in the afternoon, and watching the moon settle over the trees in autumn. It's where a young man would court the girl of his dreams on a porch swing while her family stood vigil inside the home.
The front porch was the pulpit of the neighborhood.
It’s hard to love a home or even a community that we aren’t actually part of. People don’t have homes anymore ... homes have become boxes in which to exist for a while before moving on.
I believe, especially since 9-11, many people around the world are searching again for a sense of roots, family and belonging. This is the army of MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers and folks who bake their own bread, chop their own wood, cook Sunday dinners and pick up litter along the roadways. It’s the hometown folksingers with no place to play, so they sing for free at local schools. It’s fathers who take their sons camping instead of watching TV, moms who take their daughters to volunteer at a children’s hospital instead of to the mall.
They are looking for the companionship of neighbors that goes beyond the shallow, two-dimensional world of the internet. They seek the genuine comfort of the breakfast table with family, the glass of wine in front of a winter fireplace with a loved one, the crunchy poetry of the autumn woods with their children.
This is the grand, global emotional front porch that Ghandi alluded to. We are all looking to find our inner front porch, even if we live in trailer parks or third floor condos in a city ... that’s why you read MOTHER EARTH NEWS, after all.
To me, the Front Porch has three meanings and we will be exploring them in future articles together:
1) the literal, actual front porch on a home
2) the emotional front porch of finding the love of your life and having her or him near.
3) the symbolic global, universal front porch between nations.
Those three viewpoints are bound up in the title song of my new CD and I'm posting a live performance of it here. The songs of the Front Porch album are mostly about family, love and home. The entire project is a musical look at the emotional front porch we all desperately search for and will give me a chance to tour and visit dozens of hometowns to sing, explore and discuss matters that I find personally enriching and important.
Our love of home, community and music is an emotional road map that leads to the lovely, poetic, calm and peaceful paradise that we seek ... the inner front porch that we all ache for deeply, whether we acknowledge it or not.
Ghandi said "Where there is love, there is life."
He could have added: “And where there is a front porch, there is community.”
Our love of home can defeat the greatest threat and the most bombastic, amoral, powerful enemy of our mother Earth:
We’ll get to that a few articles from now. But for now let’s keep it simple and focus on the music, the human reflection of the love we feel for the earth, our homes and each other. Next up, we will begin exploring the music made for front porches everywhere, and hopefully post clips of you playing on your own front porch, as well.
folksinger, tree hugger, log cabin dweller