As disheartening as it is to hear about a new coronavirus variant, we should not be surprised. New variants continue until infection levels are driven into the ground. Each variant represents a number of random errors in the reproduction of the RNA of the virus – a small “misspelling” in its genetic code. The more times it reproduces, the more chances there are for the next misspelling. Worried about Omicron? I’m worried about Rho, Sigma, Tau – and so forth. It doesn’t end here unless we change the odds in our favor. If 30% of the population continues to refuse to help do that, we will run out of Greek letters. What alphabet shall we all learn next?
To not vaccinate is to refuse to fight in the battle of our times. Three times more Americans die of COVID-19 every week than died on 9/11. Hospitals are full of people who thought that they woulndn’t get sick or it wouldn’t be a big deal. Each of them likely infected someone else along the way before the first symptom.
It is a big deal. Our species is under attack. We don't know who or how many will survive. Fight back. Vaccinate.
It’s the birthday today of the late actor and playwright Chadwick Boseman, the second since his untimely passing from colon cancer on August 28, 2020. He would have been 45.
Also, since 2020, today, November 29, has been known as Chadwick Boseman Day. I’m not sure who gets to proclaim such things but, regardless, I’m not complaining. After all, as both an actor and a human being, Chadwick Boseman should be celebrated, for reasons that I highlight here and here.
So it’s a special day today; it’s both Chadwick’s birthday and Chadwick Boseman Day. To celebrate, I highlight below all the previous Wild Reed posts that celebrate and honor Chadwick. May you find them as meaningful and inspiring as the life of the man himself.
Yet it was the third version of the song, released that same year, which become a massive worldwide hit.
It is this third version, released 30 years ago today, that is one of my favorite songs of the ’90s. Why? Because not only does this version, subtitled “Stand by The JAMs,” contain the wonderful music of The KLF, it also includes verses featuring the vocals of none other than the First Lady of Country Music, Tammy Wynette. (The song’s subtitle was a nod to Wynette’s hit “Stand By Your Man.”)
I have no doubt that it was this truly unlikely collaboration that played a large part in making “Justified & Ancient (Stand by The JAMs)” an international hit. The song reached number two on both the UK Singles Chart, and the US Dance Chart, number 11 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and number one in 18 countries, including my homeland of Australia, where at the time I was living and teaching.
In the US, Larry Flick from Billboard commented, “The decision to enlist country music queen Tammy Wynette for the lead vocal was a stroke of pure genius. Her distinctive style provides a weird-but-appealing contrast to the British dance duo's electro/hip-hop instrumental noodlings. Sort of sounds like the theme to a space-age spaghetti western.”
According to the website SongFacts, “The title ‘Justified & Ancient’ refers to the KLF’s pseudonym and earlier incarnation, ‘The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu’ (The JAMs). The JAMs took their name from Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s sci-fi tinged, conspiracy theory-laden Illuminatus! book series in which The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu are a fictional subversive cult who have been around since pre-history. The song lyrics describe the Justified Ancients making their way to Mu Mu Land in an ice cream van.”
SongFacts also notes that “Tammy Wynette admitted to NME that she thought the track was called ‘Justified And Anxious’ until the day KLF’s Bill Drummond turned up in Nashville with the tapes under his arm.”
One line in this song, “Make mine a 99,” references an ice cream with a Flake chocolate bar in it. To promote the song, The KLF drove an ice cream van around Liverpool and gave out free 99s. This promotional stunt stunt is mentioned in the line, “They’re justified and they’re ancient, and they drive an ice cream van.”
Reflecting on “Justified & Ancient” and the music of THE KLF in general, one YouTube commentator notes the following:
The KLF were aiming to make “non-commercial” music that shocked the industry and audiences. Their whole concept was based around their desire to lampoon the industry and make music that was so different it wouldn't fit into any of the mainstream genres or work with typical Top 40 radio playlists.
“Justified & Ancient” achieved all of that and more because it was a weird melding of country western (Tammy Wynette), hip-hop, and the early house/techno that was starting to dominate clubs and raves around the world. This song (and several other bangers by KLF) stood out as something very unique and special and I miss the positive vibes and unapologetic lack of pandering to commercial interests. The whole notion was of a celebratory journey to Mu-Mu land – a magical, mystical place where a nomadic tribe of people from all walks of life could unite in their love for good times and good music; where they could be united not by color, creed, or nationality but rather, slick beats and peace, love, unity, and respect. This nomadic tribe was “the tribe of the JAMs.”
“Justified And Ancient” . . . features what is, by several orders of magnitude, by far the unlikeliest pairing of two different artists in a hit song – avant-garde music industry rebels and transcendental house band The KLF and one of country music’s biggest stars, Tammy Wynette. [NOTE: The song also features the vocals of Maxine Harvey and rapper Ricardo da Force (right).]
The KLF’s anarchic approach to music earned them a loyal, if probably slightly puzzled, following. They were critically-acclaimed, if not necessarily commercially successful, through the late 1980s.
That all changed in the early 1990s when the sort of commercial success that every artist dreams about came thundering along soon after the release of their song “Justified And Ancient”. It reached Number 2 in the UK charts, Number 11 in the Billboard charts and hit the Number One spot around the world.
Inspired by the hip-hop revolution of the late 1980s, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, the duo who made up The KLF, were inspired to work on their own beats and jams and developed a style all of their own.
The track on “Justified And Ancient” remains to this day one of my all-time favourite dance tunes. It’s wonderfully compiled and stunningly-produced with a richness to the sound that’s usually missing from more conventional hip-hop’s harder edge. It’s nothing short of brilliant.
Now, I’m by no means certain that this is what happened . . . and the history books are silent on the subject, so this is pure conjecture on my part . . . But I’ve always fondly imagined The KLF realised they’d managed to write and produce a truly brilliant track (as “Justified And Ancient” is). But with that brilliance came something of a dilemma.
This isn’t the sort of thing you do when you’re an avant-garde music industry disruptor. “Justified And Ancient” was in danger of being excellent, but far too conventional . . . especially by the already pretty way-out standards of The KLF.
So I imagine . . . perhaps after a very long evening in the pub . . . Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty thought to themselve, “What’s the most bizarre left-field thing we could do with a brilliant dance track to turn it into some artistic statement about what life is really like in the late 1980s and early 1990s?”
“I know,” one of them said, “why don’t we record ‘Justified And Ancient’ with a big country music star instead of another vocalist listeners would be more likely to hear on a dance track. No-one’s going to be expecting that!”
Indeed we didn’t.
How they got to Tammy Wynette, we’ll never know. Why she agreed to do it is a mystery too. But I’m glad she took what must have seemed to her as something of a creative risk.
In all the interviews I’ve read with her, Tammy Wynette comes across as slightly bemused by the experience of working with The KLF, although grateful for the recognition it gave her outside her traditional country music fanbase.
And that’s probably a good thing. My reading of The KLF is that leaving the audience slightly bemused is exactly what they were shooting for most of the time.
When you watch the video, you’ll probably be slightly bemused too . . . goodness only knows what Tammy Wynette thought was going on around her when it was being recorded.
Before we go, I do need to say a quick word about the lyrics. They are complete nonsense of course, but delightfully so. It’s a bit like watching The Teletubbies . . . I’ve absolutely no idea what’s going on and I’m not much wiser by the end of the programme than I was at the beginning, but it’s a very pleasant experience to immerse myself in nonetheless.
Anyone who can get a legendary country singer to perform these lyrics is doing something right . . .
They’re justified and they’re ancient
And they drive an ice cream van
Maybe these are finely-judged, well-honed and insightful lyrics . . . but if they are, the point they’re making has passed me by completely.
Thankfully, I don’t need to understand what Tammy Wynette and The KLF are on about to enjoy their work together.
Every time the distinctive intro to “Justified And Ancient” comes on the radio a big smile spreads across my face which stays there long after the song has ended. And any song that does that every time you hear it has fully earned its place in the annals of the greatest songs of all time.
If you can listen to this through headphones, you’ll appreciate the craft that went into putting this track together. It’s clearly inspired by hip-hop, but it’s something so much more than that.
After many years of trying, music industry disruptors The KLF finally managed to harness their creative brilliance and cross over the boundary into commercial success. It’s a truly phenomenal track.
A spiritual resource that many of my Christian patients find particularly meaningful is Sarah Young’s devotional, Jesus Calling. It’s a collection of daily reflections written as if Jesus himself is speaking directly to us. They are words of encouragement, comfort, and reassurance based on Jesus’ own words of hope, guidance, and peace within Scripture.
With the Thanksgiving holiday taking place here in the U.S. tomorrow, today’s reading from Jesus Calling is particularly pertinent and meaningful. Following is my slightly adapted version of this reading, one that is inspired by Ephesians 5:20, Psalm 118:1, and Psalm 89:15.
Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity. That is why I invite you to give thanks in all circumstances. There is an element of mystery in this relationship: You give Me thanks (regardless of your feelings), and I give you Joy (regardless of your circumstances). This is a spiritual act of trust. To people who don’t know Me intimately, it can seem irrational and even impossible to thank Me for heartrending hardships. Nonetheless, those who trust Me in this way are invariably blessed, even though difficulties may remain.
Thankfulness opens your heart to My Presence and your mind to My thoughts. You may still be in the same place, with the same set of circumstances, but it is as if a light has been switched on, enabling you to see from My perspective. It is this Light of My Presence that removes the sting from adversity.
I find Lana’s words on the beauty and challenge of living in the moment to be both wise and helpful. They ring true to me. They also align with Lana’s understanding of what it means to live the Course in Miracles. This living, says Lana, is all about “training my mind to begin each and every day with the choice for God.” Such a choice, Lana says, means “keeping my mind present and mindful of what I am doing here and now, and being fully invested in this present moment. . . . It means bringing God with me in whatever I am doing. For me, that means bringing Love to everything I am doing.”
Beautiful and challenging words! Following are more of Lana Carolan’s thoughts on the beauty and challenge of “being mindful of, and present to that which we perceive,” the beauty and challenge of cultivating “present state awareness” and thus “the awareness of our Unity in God and with each other.”
The laws of perception will give us a reflection of whatever we choose to believe is real. These laws will support our deepest depression or our highest aspirations. We become the witness to where we have placed our faith.
A happy dream is a reflection (and the effect) of right-mindedness. It is being mindful of, and present to that which we perceive. It is always choosing Life, choosing Love, choosing Joy, and choosing Peace. The strength of our faith/belief in these choices bears fruit as their effects show up in our everyday lives. We forgive anything that denies the Truth. And as we do, we behold Heaven’s reflection as it unfolds in ways we cannot even imagine . . . no longer a “seeming” victim, we are now a witness to the Laws of LOVE and God truly is in everything we perceive.
Lack of faith is never at issue. We all have faith in something, be it our Truth or our distortions of the Truth. As we become more and more sensitive to the mind’s activities we can catch the ego in the beginnings of its misbehavior. As peace becomes a consistent state, lack of it is like a pebble in our shoes. It serves as a constant reminder to choose again. Our willingness to choose again activates our higher mind, our Holy Spirit, and sets in motion the correction of wrong-mindedness into right-mindedness.
Right-mindedness is Heaven’s reflection. We simply step into it as life unfolds before us. At the level of mind, there is nothing to do other than to be present and bring the mind to stillness (no thinking) and quiet (no talking to ourselves). As we take each step, God goes with us, making straight all the twists and turns of the ego’s distortions. Right-mindedness brings with it clarity, certainty, and peace. This “present state awareness” of stillness and quiet always welcomes us as we accept it. It is not a “doing” so much as it is a “being.”
Yet there will always be this place of rest to which you can return. And you will be more aware of this quiet center of the storm than all its raging activity. This quiet center, in which you do nothing, will remain with you, giving you rest in the midst of every busy doing on which you are sent. For from this center will you be directed how to use the body sinlessly. It is this center, from which the body is absent, that will keep it so in your awareness of it. [A Course in Miracles]
We simply allow and accept Reality to be what it is and Reality provides for everything we could possibly imagine we need. If you notice, the ego-mind will jump in and “seem to” inform us of all the reasons this cannot be so. Did you notice? It really believes it knows more than God does. Yet, just beyond the rantings of the ego, Reality remains Reality. It is our constant companion when we remember to notice IT, embrace IT and accept ownership of ITS amazing grace. LOVE’s Reflection always lights the way to our true home and to the awareness of our Unity in God and with each other.
We shall find peace. We shall hear angels. We shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds ~ Anton Chekov
To some this might feel like the period of a Great End . . . but in fact this is the time of a Great Beginning. It is time to die to who we used to be and to become instead who we are capable of being. That is the gift that awaits us now: the chance to become who we really are.
Autumn is a wondrous metaphor for the transformation that takes place in the human heart each season. When we notice a subtle change of light outside our windows, we know the dark season is near. Everything is being prepared for winter. Autumn calls us in from summer's playground and asks significant questions about our own harvest: What do we need to gather into our spiritual barns? What in our lives needs to fall away like autumn leaves so another life waiting in the wings can have its turn to live?
in the guise of the Antlered One,
Come and take me into your wildness.
Show me the world through your soulful eyes.
Enrapture me with your scent, your touch.
Help me to come both back and forward
The majesty of beauty is its gracious wholesomeness. The Beautiful unifies feeling, thought and dream. [This at-one-ment] coaxes the soul to the land of wonder where the journey becomes a bright path between source and horizon, awakening and surrender. Perhaps, through awakening our hearts to beauty, we can all come to know more intimately what John Keats meant when he wrote: “I feel more and more every day, as my imagination strengthens, that I do not live in this world alone but in a thousand worlds” (Letters, October 18, 1818).
There is something absolutely magnificent about walking in a full-growth forest, when light shines through the needles and leaves in great shimmering columns; the way our heads tilt up from time to time, almost involuntarily, pulled by the sway of the treetops like masts at sea. But it is the low-lying trees, the broken and dissolving, that often convey a deeper sense of what it means to grow into a true elder – to open up, to become emptied of ego.
Does the hollowing out happen invisibly and in private? And how do we age with an open heart when we are often encouraged to stay perpetually youthful? In a culture that values surfaces, how do we pay attention to what is unfolding within our depths?
I sit by an elder tree on the hill above my house. His body is slowly disintegrating, becoming fertile ground for new plants and trees. It is as if the tree is willing himself to be used up for the good of the Earth. I like to imagine that my increasingly arthritic hips and aging flesh are not an end unto themselves but a portal into a more generous and wiser time in my life.
After all, youth is the time for ego – a time to build up a sense of self. But true elderhood is a different matter entirely. Instead of worrying so much about staying young, perhaps we need to learn how to grow old. There is nothing more beautiful than an ancient tree with low branched that open like arms, embracing us. We need arms like that to hold us in these turbulent times.
Blessed are you, Divine Mystery, who have made the entire universe your holy temple, spread out in the autumn evening sky. Sacred are the mountains and valleys, prairies and fields of this planet. Holy are the forests and meadows, the canyons and oceans deep, the cities and villages – all your sacred space. All who dwell upon this planet walk on holy ground, are priestly stewards of your earthly shrine.
Blessed are you, O Harvest of my heart,
Sacred Source of all life,
Delight of my days.
Autumn, that universal symbol of change, gently suggests to us that winter is on the way as the leaves turn red, and somehow, equally gently and gradually, reminds us that nothing is permanent. . . . If the seasons change this way, then everything else probably does too, so holding the moment becomes important. Each event must be savoured for what it is, and nothing can bring it back. On the personal level, as Pico Iyer notes, we should “cherish the seasons inside us,” and “seek out changelessness in change.” Or, as the 19th-century French novelist and critic Jean-Baptiste Karr famously put it, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” [“The more it changes, the more it’s the same”]. Autumn somehow reminds us of this, too; it’s the season, Iyer says, “when everything falls away,” but at the same time it will be preparing to come back.
I love the beauty of life’s last dance with the above ground realm at this time of year, as each being turns inward, towards the darkness and the sweet embrace of quietude. How I love these golden displays, this fire that burns bright in yellows, oranges and reds, before descending to feed the ground below, turning to compost, dark matter, feeding and holding the seeds, the future.
And as winter takes hold of the land, if you listen, if you watch, you will feel, hear, sense the seeds, as they dream into being, held by their elders, nourished by their homeland. Dreaming, stretching, reaching tenderly, powerfully; growing into medicine, food, beauty and life.
Take a moment to listen on those darkening days, to feel the beauty, the becoming, being whispered upon the land. Use this as a mirror for your own soul, your own inner landscape. If you feel into the darkness, when all around you feels lost; if you listen deeply enough, compassionately, you will notice the seeds inside yourself, learning, stretching, growing; wanting to rewild the concrete, birthing your medicine, for you.
I established The Wild Reed in 2006 as a sign of solidarity with all who are dedicated to living lives of integrity – though, in particular, with gay people seeking to be true to both the gift of their sexuality and their Catholic faith. The Wild Reed's original by-line read, “Thoughts and reflections from a progressive, gay, Catholic perspective.” As you can see, it reads differently now. This is because my journey has, in many ways, taken me beyond, or perhaps better still, deeper into the realities that the words “progressive,” “gay,” and “Catholic” seek to describe.
Even though reeds can symbolize frailty, they may also represent the strength found in flexibility. Popular wisdom says that the green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm. Tall green reeds are associated with water, fertility, abundance, wealth, and rebirth. The sound of a reed pipe is often considered the voice of a soul pining for God or a lost love.
On September 24, 2012,Michael BaylyofCatholics for Marriage Equality MNwas interviewed by Suzanne Linton of Our World Today about same-sex relationships and why Catholics can vote 'no' on the proposed Minnesota anti-marriage equality amendment.
"I believe your blog to be of utmost importance for all people regardless of their orientation. . . . Thank you for your blog and the care and dedication that you give in bringing the TRUTH to everyone."– William
"Michael, if there is ever a moment in your day or in your life when you feel low and despondent and wonder whether what you are doing is anything worthwhile, think of this: thanks to your writing on the internet, a young man miles away is now willing to embrace life completely and use his talents and passions unashamedly to celebrate God and his creation. Any success I face in the future and any lives I touch would have been made possible thanks to you and your honesty and wisdom."– AB
"Since I discovered your blog I have felt so much more encouraged and inspired knowing that I'm not the only gay guy in the Catholic Church trying to balance my Faith and my sexuality. Continue being a beacon of hope and a guide to the future within our Church!"– Phillip
"Your posts about Catholic issues are always informative and well researched, and I especially appreciate your photography and the personal posts about your own experience. I'm very glad I found your blog and that I've had the chance to get to know you."– Crystal
"Thank you for taking the time to create this fantastic blog. It is so inspiring!"– George
"I cannot claim to be an expert on Catholic blogs, but from what I've seen, The Wild Reed ranks among the very best."– Kevin
"Reading your blog leaves me with the consolation of knowing that the words Catholic, gay and progressive are not mutually exclusive.."– Patrick
"I grieve for the Roman institution’s betrayal of God’s invitation to change. I fear that somewhere in the midst of this denial is a great sin that rests on the shoulders of those who lead and those who passively follow. But knowing that there are voices, voices of the prophets out there gives me hope. Please keep up the good work."– Peter
"I ran across your blog the other day looking for something else. I stopped to look at it and then bookmarked it because you have written some excellent articles that I want to read. I find your writing to be insightful and interesting and I'm looking forward to reading more of it. Keep up the good work. We really, really need sane people with a voice these days."– Jane Gael
"Michael, your site is like water in the desert."– Jayden