The people past, present and future who help us evolve as a species in and of nature.
“I wanted to connect all people who are thinking about peace on Earth.” -Willie Nelson-
On the one side, a world of honky-tonks, truck stops, guns, alcohol and domestic violence. On the other, a world of sleazy nightclubs, prostitution, guns, alcohol and urban crime. Paranoid patriots and leftist intellectuals—corrupt southern sheriffs and white collar criminals.
The dividing line was drawn very early in North American culture and few individuals were capable of straddling the two worlds. But think outside of the commercial jargon of the cross-over artist and more toward the individuals who appealed to the inner humanity of both sides of the line and you’ll begin to get the idea. Will Rogers did it, Mark Twain did it, and so did Willie Nelson—all poets of the living experience who reached out with a message of commonality to a public that often preferred the dogma of intolerance and distrust.
Frontier bravery was always the hallmark of the western hero, but that bravery did not always translate into the prosaic world of the farmer or truck driver. The western lore of the film screen made every man out to be a hero or villain and everyone was made to feel that they had not lived until the show-down had finally occurred. But the isolation of small towns and scattered farms meant that finding the ideal enemy was not always easy. Brothers would fight brothers, and neighbors would fight neighbors to release the tension, but what they really needed was for an ‘outsider’ to step on their toes. The morality would be dealt with after the confrontation. Likewise for the city thug who lays in wait for the bumpkin or rube to step down the wrong alleyway. Enemies, we are taught, must be created if they do not already exist.
For an iconic western singer to transcend that notion, move freely within those harshly different environments and allow himself to sing the song of a jazz crooner but still not compromise his love for a warm country ballad is truly what the frontier spirit of independence is all about. By not voluntarily offering up the stereotypical answers of prejudice, he let his audiences begin to reconsider their own limited notions of how the other half lived. With Willie, it wasn’t a compromise so much as an uninhibited expression of his own individualism; his willingness to listen, learn and not judge anyone by superficialities. As he so bluntly put it, “Rednecks, hippies, misfits… they’re all the same.” It was the inner person he cared about and it didn’t matter what package it came in. You don’t draw a gun on someone because they look or sound different than you. Or, in his own words, “Cruelty is all out of ignorance. If you knew what was in store for you, you wouldn’t hurt anybody, because whatever you do comes back much more forceful than you send it out.”
Yes, Willie Nelson was a bodhisattva, and a member of the human race.