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Making up Songs

Do you ever make up songs? Sometimes when we write the words to a song we don’t have music for it, so we use the music from another song that we already know.

In English we have a very old song called “Greensleeves,” but the words are not inspiring. The first word of that song is, “Alas!” Alas means, “Oh, dear! What a shame! Things aren’t going right!” Greensleeves starts off, “Alas! My love, you do me wrong.” It’s not such a good start for a song! You want to have a more positive beginning.

The song says, everything’s going wrong. We often get a lot of wrong news instead of the right news, so we want to have something going right in our song. The words don’t give us much energy to do what we really want to do, so we can change it a little bit.

The word “sleeve” in the song “Greensleeves” refers to the sleeve of a coat, and it means that the woman the singer loved wore a coat that was the color green. But there are other things that are green. For instance, the planet Earth has a green coat. It’s made up of the forest and the grass, and it’s very beautiful. So why don’t we change the song and talk about the green coat of Mother Earth? This will make us feel happy about Mother Earth. So instead of saying, “Alas! My love, you did me wrong,” we could say something like,

How beautiful the green grass is— It covers the planet Earth. How beautiful the green grass is. I vow to keep it fresh. Green grass is all my joy, And green grass is my delight. Green grass is the spring’s gift.I vow to take care of the green grass.

In this version of the song you make a deep aspiration like the Buddha did when he sat at the foot of the tree: that you will look after the grass. Because if we don’t have green grass then we don’t have the other species – all the animals that live in the green grass and live by the green grass and eat the green grass– and we need these species.

There are so many songs with beautiful music but the words aren’t quite right yet. So if you find a song that needs more positive words and you put in new words, I think that is very helpful for our world. Then we can sing about things which can help the world become a more beautiful place.

Excerpted from a Dharma talk to children on June 25, 2001.

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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