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The number one song on Billboard’s Hot 100 pop music chart the day that I was born — almost 55 years ago — was the 5th Dimension’s cover of “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In,” from the Broadway musical, Hair.

I like that as my entrance music, a strong opening number for the soundtrack of my life:

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius —
Harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding,
No more falsehoods or derisions — golden living dreams of visions,
Mystic crystal revelation, and the mind’s true liberation —
Aquarius, Aquarius!

Perhaps such hippie idealism sounds a little naive today. But even so, I’ve always believed in it. Even as I sometimes get sidetracked and bogged down with my own world-weary resignation, part of me has held onto this vision, this promise:

The promise that we are on the beautiful verge of something new. That we stand at the threshold of a world of harmony, trust, truth, and liberation. A shimmering future awaits us, and nothing can keep us from it. We need only open our hearts and minds and step forth. Amen.

I’ve gotta admit, though — 55 years seems like a long time to be on the verge. Maybe not that long in astronomical or astrological terms, but still — my lifetime so far. And over the years, in the face of relentless troubles and hardships, it can get more and more challenging to remain open-hearted and hopeful. Idealism can start to seem like gullibility. Cumulative disappointment becomes real heavy when it feels like we’re taking as many steps backward as forward. The tender dream of a whole new world can get trampled under all those back and forth steps. Fool me twice, shame on me. Maybe it would be safer to just not believe in anything…

I almost called this talk, “Mama Cass and the Long Game of Faith,” because that’s what the note on my cork board said. I wrote that phrase on a coaster in a brew pub several months ago, after an inspiring conversation with my husband. But that’s all I wrote, and immediately I forgot what I meant by it. This week, I asked Travis if he recalled what we had been talking about that night. He didn’t, not entirely, but he remembered the song that had sparked our discussion. Overhead in the pub that night had been Cass Elliot singing “New World Coming,” from her 1970 solo album, Mama’s Big Ones.

Fifty-four years ago, Mama Cass sang:

There’s a new voice calling, you can hear it if you try.
And it’s growing stronger, with each day that passes by.
There’s a brand new morning, rising clear and sweet and free.
There’s a new day dawning that belongs to you and me…

It was sweet. It was lovely. Travis and I talked about how we should consider adding the song to Bosque’s Sunday morning repertoire. I love Cass’s rich voice, full of hope and confidence (Patty would sing the heck out of this number). But after happily bopping along to the music over my second pint, when I looked up the lyrics and read through them again the next morning, they sounded so danged banal I almost choked on them. At least “Aquarius” has some trippy magical mysticism about it. I doubted that even I could muster enough wide-eyed optimism to pull off or buy into the simple sincerity of “New World Coming.”

“There’s a new world coming, and it’s just around the bend…”

Really? Is it? You still think so?! Because we’re over five decades later, now, and where I stand it sure doesn’t feel like we’ve arrived at our global utopia yet. I don’t know if that means Mama Cass was just wrong. I don’t like to think that I’ve been misled or duped by the cast of Hair and the 5th Dimension and everyone else over the years who has offered a message of hope for a future dawning right now, but —

When is it going to be right now, already?

This is where the long game of faith comes in. It’s probably what Travis and I talked about that night at the pub. I should’ve taken more notes because I am not entirely sure now what I meant by that groovy idea. But what I’m thinking is:

  • Faith is a perpetual practice. Whether or not everything is going exactly as we want it to. Especially when it’s not. I mean, Easy Street doesn’t demand a whole lot of hope, pluck, and optimism. Where it’s needed, when we’re called to bring it, is through the rough spots and tough times. A circumstantial faith that we feel only when things are going well isn’t really all that helpful. It’s more about cultivating bold, audaciously faithful hearts that are strong in the face of the new challenges of every new day.
  • Giving our faith, our hearts, to the possibility of a new world that isn’t instead of the world we’ve got.  But rather exercising a faith-filled ability to meet the world as it is, choosing how to be with it, and remembering that this in itself creates something new.  It means practicing faith in ourselves, in our own ability to contribute toward everything to come.
  • Faith that doesn’t toss in the towel — not in fifty years, or a hundred, or in a 2000-year zodiacal age.

The 5th Dimension mashed up two songs from Hair in their 1969 hit — it’s a medley of “Aquarius” and “Let the Sun Shine In.” They only included latter’s chorus, rapturously chanting: Let the sun shine, let the sun shine in, the sun shine in…

But the original song involved a lot of darkness as well.  The complete title has a parenthesis: “Let the Sun Shine In (The Flesh Failures).”  It’s not just a hippy-dippy feel-good rainbow.  It fully acknowledges our world of troubles, disconnection and war, disillusionment and loneliness.  And facing all that, unflinching, undeterred, we are enjoined to invite in the sunshine.  Let it in.

The only way the new day coming is going to be any different from the previous days is if I let it.  That’s not to say that everything will always instantaneously work out in blissful perfection simply by my allowing.  But if I am not willing to allow the sunshine of hope and faith, then I’m that much less likely to experience it.  We all get discouraged and disappointed.  We all get impatient and frustrated.  It seems like we should’ve figured a lot of this shit out by now.  What’s taking us so goddamned long?!  

Even so — with all that, through all that — let the sun shine in. Let it in.

I can’t wait to be with you this Sunday, February 18, at 10:00am at Maple Street Dance Space. XO, Drew

©2024 Drew Groves

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