Today we have another chance to celebrate liberty and independence: Happy Bastille Day! In many ways, the French Revolution, which started on July 14, 1789 was even more influential than the U.S. revolution of 1776. I think of all the 19th century artists and writers who were inspired by this fight for freedom, all the government leaders who were terrified that their populaces might follow the lead of France.
I know all the ways that the French Revolution failed, but I'm even more aware of the ways that a failed revolution led to unimagined freedoms in later decades and centuries.
Today is also the birthday of Woody Guthrie, one of my favorite singer songwriters--not so much because I love his singing voice, but because I love his approach. He found a guitar on the street, and began to teach himself. He didn't have any training in music theory, but that didn't stop him; he often used melodies of popular songs, and thus, what he wrote felt familiar and singable. Guthrie famously said that any song that needed more than 2 guitar chords was showing off. I love this approach to song writing. Guthrie took what could have been a major weakness and turned it into a powerful strength. I wrote an extensive post about him on his 100th birthday here.
Today is also my birthday. How will I celebrate? I will go to work and then go to VBS. I am not one of those people who takes a personal leave day on my birthday. From early years, when friends were away on vacation during my birthday, and often, when my family was too, I understood that life goes on--elementary school children with summer birthdays get no cupcakes brought to homeroom, and parties often happen later when everyone's back in town.
When I was young, I felt neglected at times, but now I prefer to celebrate in random ways. Some years, we've gone out. Some years, people have come to me. Some years, I forget it is my birthday until family members remind me. Some years, the celebration stretches on for a whole week.
Today has been good so far. I took a pre-dawn swim, one of my current favorite activities. I decided to come inside when I saw lightning and heard thunder--it would be bad to be found electrocuted in the pool on my birthday--or any day. One of my work friends wants to take me to lunch, and it's been awhile since we went to one of our favorite restaurants, so that will be something to look forward to.
I'll finish the day at Vacation Bible School, an unusual birthday celebration. But almost all of my church friends are also VBS staff, so that will be cool.
And maybe I'll luck out, and the children will be as interested in tonight's activities as I am. We'll be having fun with yarn and beads and a prayer loom--for more on that process, see this post on my theology blog.
And in between, I'll listen to the music of Woody Guthrie on my favorite CD of covers of his songs, Folkways: a Vision Shared. I'll spend some time thinking about French patriots and saying thanks for the world of liberty, equality and fraternity that they helped create.