What more is there to say about musician, activist, and visionary Pete Seeger, who died this Monday? Our neighbor – he lived just twenty minutes from Plough headquarters – and some of our team have counted him as a friend for decades. He lived generously and fully, loved the earth and its people, and whatever his faults, stands out for his down-to-earth courage and dogged hope for humanity. As he once said:
I tell people I think we have a fifty-fifty chance for there to be a human race here in a hundred years. They think that’s being pessimistic.
No, I say, that’s being optimistic, because it implies that one of us might be the grain of sand that will tip the scales in the right direction.
Imagine that there’s a big seesaw. At one end of it is a basket half full of rocks. That end is on the ground. At the other end is a basket one-quarter full of sand. And a bunch of us with teaspoons, we’re trying to put sand in that end.
A lot of people laugh at us, they say “Oh, don’t you see, it’s leaking out as fast as you’re putting it in.”
Well, we say, “It’s leaking out, but we’re getting more people with teaspoons all the time. One of these days, you’re gonna see that whole basket with sand so full that this seesaw is going to go zoooom-up in the other direction.”
And people will say, “Gee, how did it happen so quickly?”
Us and our damned little teaspoons.
Of course, Pete was most eloquent when singing, and so here’s a little-known song he often performed in recent years with school children here in the Hudson valley. It may not be his best song (there are a lot to choose from), but it’s easy to learn and hard to forget, and captures what he was about.
When we look and we can see things are not what they should be
God’s counting on me, God’s counting on you.
Hopin’ we’ll all pull through, Hopin’ we’ll all pull through,
Hopin’ we’ll all pull through
Me and you.
Don’t give up don’t give in, working together we all can win.
When we sing with younger folks, we can never give up hope.
When there’s big problems to be solved, let’s get everyone involved.
What we do now, you and me, will affect Eternity.
The video includes beautiful footage of Pete’s beloved Hudson River.
Pete Seeger quoted this song in his review of Johann Christoph Arnold’s book Rich in Years.
The song “God’s Counting On Me” is by Pete Seeger and Lorre Wyatt, published by Roots and Branch Music (www.lorrewyatt.com). Used by permission.