Although there are exceptions, most forms of renewal happen slowly. Think of the slow round of the seasons, the patience needed to follow the life cycle of plants. A human baby takes 9 months of growth to enter the world which it will renew.
In fact it seems miraculous that, in some forms, renewal happens at all. Tears, for instance. What do I mean? Watch this Youtube video, and see what you think — and feel:
Look at the faces! This is the Sixties. Peter, Paul, and Mary are so young, and the faces of their audience are so innocent. It’s almost a world before the Fall, at least compared to nowadays. I know that it became the cynical fashion to say that Puff was about marijuana, but I don’t buy that. Here are some current responses to the video quoted from the Youtube website:
“I’ve been singing this song since I was three years old.. I never understood what it meant until this night, sitting between graduation and moving away, oblivion and confusion about the future, that I cry and comprehend. Puff will always be in us all.”
“I love this song, always made me want to cry, never could figure out why. My daughter told me she’s moving away, and now I know.”
“My dad used to sing me this song when I was a little girl every night over the phone when we were in different places. It always made me happy, made me think of him. My dad passed away of a heart attack as we were watching TV together, right after my 17th birthday 5 months ago. I didn’t get much time with him, but he was one of the most important people to me. Sometimes I like to close my eyes, play this song and just think of him. It still makes me cry.”
“When I leave this rock, I want this song to play me out.”
As Peter, the lead singer, says much later in a 2003 performance, the song was always about what it was about, not about marijuana, but about something much more serious and important, about the inevitable loss of innocence that accompanies growing up. (And even if it were about the weed, it wouldn’t change that. We grow up and beyond everything, even youthful follies and pleasures.)
Puff, the Magic Dragon, still makes tears come to my eyes too, although I don’t know exactly why. After all, my childhood innocence was lost decades and decades and decades ago. Yet it turns out that such a profound experience lasts a lifetime. Recall is swift and evergreen.
I do believe that such tears are, or can slowly become, a form of renewal. (Perhaps “redemption” is a more accurate word.) I believe that tears, painful and bitter as they may be, in some amazing way hold the potential for renewal, for redemption, and ultimately can even become cause for rejoicing.
It’s a big, lonely world out there. I hope that some, maybe many, of you will share your thoughts about this — after listening again to the magical song.