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A Voice in the Wilderness

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness. -- William O. Douglas

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Ibrahim Ferrer - A Great Man

I posted earlier on Ibrahim Ferrer. I now wish to expand upon who he was and what he meant to me.

For those of you interested, I have . I translated the song, 'Amor Verdadero' - 'True Love' which I posted when I learned that he had died. The translation is there for you to read if you are so inclined.

For me Ibrahim Ferrer's life is a wonderful example of a man who lived and died being true to himself. He represented hope and all that is good.

He was born in Cuba, became a musician and lived to see two radically different forms of government. In spite of it all, he was a musician.

It is my understanding that when Ry Cooder approached him, he was not even performing anymore but he was poor. So, he decided to take up Cooder's offer and so he began to play his music again. Thank heaven he did because he re-awakened a consciousness about Cuba that had long lay dormant in America due to mistrust, hatred and misunderstanding.

The wounds with Cuba are deep for America and the expatriates who were forced to leave Cuba after Fidel came to power. I have mixed feelings about it all because while Fidel's government is something I do not completely agree with, I understand his idealistic belief in distributing the wealth. It is evident he had tremendous hatred for American business interests which he felt were literally taking advantage of Cuba's beauty and treating her like a whore – buying her, using her and ignoring her suffering.

Fidel’s reaction to America was but an omen of how other third world people would react toward to the US in time. Viet Nam, Iran, El Salvador and many other nations began to stand up against the US business interests and the results have proven to be a steady decline in world opinion. America is fast becoming the only nation that believes itself to be a defender of freedom. Pursuant to the latest international fiasco – Iraq - other nations are now openly gearing themselves up for nuclear warfare and they identify America as the foe which one day will target them for invasion. Paranoia makes no logical sense but it is the reality we are now left to deal with in the wake of America’s recent neo-conservative fervor.

That being said, Fidel's approach toward injustice led to more injustice. Many souls have suffered and perished under his social experiment. All I can say is that regardless of which government or despot, there will always be poor people. They suffer equally regardless of who is in control. Poor people starve and die every day on this planet. If we are to believe UNICEF, 30,000 children alone die every day on the planet. Because of that, I am left to wonder about the insanity that we, as a society, engage in as we pursue our own selfish interests. Such realizations are enough to make anyone go mad. Sometimes I wish I could forget it all but, I am not lucky enough to have lost my mind and so I worry. I just cannot get it out of my head.

Like words, music reaches beyond borders straight into people's souls. The power of Ferrer's music lay dormant because of circumstance not choice. Very late in his life, he was presented with an opportunity and he took it. To his credit, he played what he felt and the commercial success followed.

I am not certain whether you followed my Ziggy Marley post featuring his song, "True to Myself." I picked that song because it accurately reflects how I feel about life. While I do not consider myself an artist, I think it reflects what should be the clarion call to every gifted artist on the planet because their words and music transcend arbitrarily constructed boundaries of ideology, religion and nationalism.

Now, regarding personal success; if we are true to our calling, then we cannot help but be successful. My caution at this point is that we not confuse financial gains with personal success. In my lifetime, I have met people who were rich beyond measure and yet did not own anything but the clothes on their backs.

The way I see it, our lives are limited to a few hundred thousand heart beats. They tick toward a certain end regardless of what we do - or choose not to do. It makes sense to me that if we live our lives with true meaning – seeking to be of service to humanity – then our existence on this big blue ball has not been a waste. Those things that detract from our true purpose in life are nothing more than distractions which will, in the final accounting show up as completely worthless despite whatever value they carry in this Earthly life.

The people whom I most admire throughout history are those who not even the universe could put parentheses around. They include; Jesus, Mohammed, The Buddha, St. Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, Lincoln, Sojourner Truth, John Sullivan, Susan B. Anthony, FDR, Martin Luther King, John and Robert Kennedy, Lech Walesa, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Cesar Chávez, Maya Angelou, Isabel Allende, my mother, my father and so many others. They most assuredly all have their flaws but they’ve remained devoted to their causes and that endures undisputedly as their sign of greatness.

Ultimately, our lives are our own and we get to live them as we choose – unless that is if we are starving to death or living in fear of death and under tyranny. I bear no ill will toward anyone and wish every being on this planet peace. I refuse to waste even one of my limited heartbeats with bitterness. I will continue to hope that everyone on this planet one day wakes up from this sleep which blinds us all to the unnecessary suffering and injustice.

May we all have the courage and strength to live as honestly and kindly as Ibrahim Ferrer and may he rest in peace.

day in day out I've asked many questions I say
only to find the truth it never changes I say
Ziggy Marley - True to Myself


At Wed Aug 10, 12:35:00 PM MDT, Blogger irina said...

I guess being true to ourselves is what makes us feel fully fulfilled and alive. I agree with what you said about success, public acknowledgement or wealth is not its mark... It´s hat kind of self accomplishment which makes you confident that you can´t do anything else better than that...

At Wed Aug 10, 11:58:00 PM MDT, Blogger The Voice said...


You have summed it up well. I am reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 11:25-30, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."

I have read that over and over again and it seems so counterintuitive. Perhaps that is what Martin Luther King meant in his, I Have a Dream speech when he referred to the mountain top. I have often wondered if he was prescient or ir if he realized that 'God's work' was what he was meant to do and once he reconciled that, not even the threat of death troubled him.

I am certain of one thing only these days; my path while no clearer, seems to be illuminated by a call for truth and justice. To me, both are worth living by and both are worth dying for.

A life with out principles isn't much of a life.

Thanks for your post.

At Thu Aug 11, 02:13:00 AM MDT, Blogger irina said...


You know... I really think that if you are meant to do something, you feel it so deeply within you that you have no choice but to do that. That is the way I see it, yet I don´t pretend I am right. That´s what I see when thinking of Martin Luther King... I think that the REAL DEATH for him was not to do what he was meant to! I don´t know about prescience. He could be the only one to know that. But I know God can feel your heart with such certainty and joy and meaning that you really have no choice but to do what you are meant to, sorry for repeating myself.
Thank you for making me think about that. It´s deepening...

At Thu Aug 11, 04:26:00 AM MDT, Blogger M said...

Hi J.

Here's something amazing (or at least I think it is, the coincidence is weird).

Ibrahim Ferrer is virtually unknown in my country, but I once went to a flea market and found this secondhand MP3 CD titled "World Music." An entire album in it has Ferrer's songs, about 13 or so of them. I bought it, and I remember listening to Amor Verdadero and loving it, though I didn't understand a single word. (Oh, except maybe amor, bailar, querida and mujer.) When I saw your post of that song, I took out the MP3 CD, and sure enough, it's the same song I loved! I was disappointed though that you hadn't provide the translation--yet. Now that you have that out, wow, I thought--it's a song that's partly about betrayal by a loved one. How apt for me :-) What a coincidence.

(And I must say that it feels good to know what Guajira means! The singer sure put passion in that one word.)

On a different note, let me say that you seem to be very passionate about your convictions, and I admire that very much. I agree with most of the things you write about... I do read your posts diligently even if I don't comment... I am reminded of Peace Pilgrim as someone who lived a most meaningful and abundant life, yet there was a time when her material possessions were just the clothes on her back.

Do I sense some confusion and frustration about what you wish to accomplish? Well, when you contemplate on gigantic concerns like world hunger, you will surely feel angry and sad and perhaps helpless. But I hope you'll keep on doing what you do and aspiring toward your ideals. For what are we without our aspirations and ideals? What are we if we don't look beyond ourselves and express concern about our fellowmen and the world we live in?

So keep on, brother. Don't ever lose hope.


At Thu Aug 11, 07:58:00 AM MDT, Blogger Shirazi said...

I did not know the person but I like reading about him.

At Thu Aug 11, 01:36:00 PM MDT, Blogger Liquidplastic said...

As I have read many of your post, I have sense an awakening within you … with each one the awakening becomes more precise … freedom to be yourself that can only come about with understanding of the commonalities we share with each other, on so many levels. When others suffer, of course we suffer too.

When awakening on this level, one tends to think the person is confused, and that is a credible observation. I dare say in this world, where confusion runs rampart, it’s easy to make such an observation. No disrespect intended. I enjoy the comments from the readers as much as I enjoy the post that inspired them.

When one is confused there is a complete lack of order, chaos, so to speak. Here, your thoughts are in concise order, I dare say, even peaceful, as you receive a fresh awakening to surrounding. After all, if we do not become aware with the people we co-exist with, we will never be successful in anything we undertake. I learnt this the hard way.

Your awakening is much like a baby being born. The stages are just the same.

The Conception
The Cocoon
The Labor
The Birth
The First Breath
The First Spanking

And so on …

In my humble opinion, the way you listen and speak to that which you have heard with great understanding, you are coming out of your cocoon. You are in labor with yourself, and as a woman, who has given birth five times, labor is hard and it’s painful. One must suffer to give birth, and one must endure the suffering of others to be born. So it is with you.

Now you are awakening, giving birth to your true self, and in this life that’s like taking a breath of polluted air, which we call “our reality” --- thus struggling to survive the war of principalities. In this world we will get spanked with others lies many time, as we seek to find our own truth. How better to do this then to review the lives of others.

I applaud you and the great challenge you have undertaken. It won’t be easy, but it will be joyous. You know how good it feel when you see your baby for the first time … well, look in the mirror my friend … yourself has just been born.

Now, you got to learn to crawl before you walk ... that’s the hardest part. I am fifty-six years old, and I haven’t taken my first step yet! However, I am happy to report … with the friends, especially the young ones, I have met online, in the Blog world, which I have come to appreciate and love, I can just about stand up by myself.

I didn't know this man but it felt so good to read about him. For indeed, his life and his success give me hope that maybe I will be able to become a success in my old age.

At Thu Aug 11, 02:51:00 PM MDT, Blogger Beaver said...

J : My dear friend, thanks for this enlightening, heartening post ! (by the way, you're so popular, you've attracted the attention of spambots! - you might want to deactivate anonymous comments...)

Your introductory comment about Cuba fueled my inspiration today. I actually started writing you a comment about it and realized this was worth a lengthy post, so instead, I posted it to my blog ! Thanks for providing my daily dose of intellectual stimulation !

LP : Your wisdom is priceless, and I appreciate every minute that you take to share it with us. You're a "Grande Dame" (a Great Lady, but with a HUGE capital L!)


At Tue Aug 16, 01:48:00 AM MDT, Blogger iamnasra said...

Your post brings those we seem not to know...I will sure read more about Ibrahim Ferrer ..To say the truth I have not hear of him I guess being living here in Arabia many faces or artist are merely unknow to us...


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