Mother and Child Reunion

By Thomas Schuhmann

Mother and Child Reunion” is my favorite song by Paul Simon.

My grandmother’s maiden name was also Simon. Her parents owned a restaurant in Veitshöchheim, near Wuerzburg, which has a public park with lakes and waterworks, filled with hundreds of allegorical sandstone sculptures, an enchanted place for a child to roam about. My grandmother took me there when she visited her sister.

I loved to feed the fish in the pond of the Hofgarten which were majestic carp swimming lazily about in the sunshine. In the middle of the pond was a statue of a winged horse. The carps and Pegasus, the quietness of the place, the Main river nearby, the swans: it gave me a feeling what the “mother and child reunion” could be about.

I had become a follower of my grandmother and accompanied her to our church named “The Holy Family” where she prayed the rosary in October and where she attended Mother Mary again in the month of May for devotions. I listened to the old women whispering the rosary, murmuring the holy words, in a room with a side altar. Mother Mary’s statue stood there, immaculate, holding a rosary, candles burning in front of her, the smell of wax. I read much later that the Irish poet Seamus Heaney went through a similar experience, the Catholic experience, just as Bruce Springsteen did.

The lower Franconian version of Catholicism was a religion of sadness, of somber words, mysterious details, the value of suffering was constantly stressed, the confession, the holy communion, the church songs stemming mostly from the baroque era. I developed my first Top Ten by waiting for certain songs to appear again and again each Sunday. My favorite was “O Lamb of God, innocent”:

O Lamb of God, most stainless!
Who on the Cross didst languish,
Patient through all Thy sorrows.
Though mocked amid Thine anguish;
Our sins Thou bearest for us,
Else had despair reigned o’er us:
Have mercy upon us, O Jesu!
Grant us Thy peace today, O Jesu!

The King of the world, despised! I couldn’t get this paradox into my head, but singing it made these words become one with my soul and filled me with the longing to follow the misunderstood, rejected, lonely person of Jesus Christ.

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Aquarian Angst: Woodstock at 50

By David Eaton

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock music festival.

Flashing back to that “summer of love,” I’m reminded of two iconic before-and-after photos: one depicting a sea of humanity reveling in the music of their idols on Max Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York, the other revealing the horrible mess of mud and refuse left behind.

Juxtaposed, these two images are emblematic of a generation that grew up on rock and roll, loved to get high, party hard, and indulge in “free love,” often with reckless abandon. Living the Bohemian lifestyle of carefree license, unfettered by “traditional values,” became the fantasy of an entire generation — and music was at the vortex of that counterculture revolution.

The Woodstock generation waxed poetic about peace, love and universal brotherhood, and music was deemed a leading force ushering in a utopian era in which greed, selfishness and all manner of “plastic” values would be expunged. John Lennon and Yoko Ono implored us to “give peace a chance.” The hopes and dreams of an Aquarian Age, a time when “love would steer the stars,” and “we’ll study war no more” would become a reality — or so we thought.

Our love of music became a quasi-religion. “Make love, not war” was our credo, sex and drugs our sacraments, and rock ‘n roll was the music that accompanied the liturgy. In spite of our New Age optimism about making the planet a better place for our children and “getting back to the garden,” the spirit of rebellion and defiance was pervasive, and the music of the era reflected that rebelliousness.

In retrospect, Woodstock may have been more of a moment rather than a movement. As that “after” photo might suggest, the Woodstock generation has been rather messy in the ensuing decades with regard to love, life and its pursuit of happiness.

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