I got a CD at Christmas (I may have given it to myself actually!) – “Cat Stevens’ Greatest Hits” – containing songs I had not thought about in almost a generation in some cases. One song in particular hit home in a way I could not have expected. Written in 1970, “Father and Son” is a unique song where Stevens sings two parts. The “Father” begins singing in a gentle low range and the “Son” follows in a higher, more emotive range. In addition to the lyrics below, throughout the song in the background, the Father also sings, “Stay, stay, stay, why must you go and make this decision alone?”
Almost 40 years ago, I was the “son,” feeling the angst, sometimes the anger, usually at my mother. Now I am the “father,” speaking gently, understanding, more than my sons know, the angst they feel about the changes in life they face.
I tell students that wisdom is almost formulaic. Here’s the formula I draw:
Wisdom = Knowledge + Experience + Time + God.
It’s nothing personal, but younger people simply have not lived long enough or been through enough experiences to be wise. That said, it has been true for millennia that there comes a time when young men have to go – they have to set out on their own. For us, that time has usually been college. Though they “come home” during breaks, in reality, they only come to visit their old home while they search for their new one. I remember that awkward time of transition in my youth and it has pained me to see my sons go through the same. But there it is – life happens, people grow, and at some point, you have to go.
But how strange, after so many years, to hear the song again and find myself agreeing with the lower older gentler voice, when 35-40 years ago, I totally resonated with the frustration of the son. Time . . .
Here is a link to the original version of the song. Take a trip down memory lane. Or if you are young, listen carefully, and remember: though you have grown up and you “have to go,” you will always be welcome back for visits. This I know is true.
It’s not time to make a change.
Just relax, take it easy.
You’re still young, that’s your fault;
There’s so much you have to know.
Find a girl. Settle down.
If you want you can marry.
Look at me: I am old, but I’m happy.
I was once like you are now, and I know that it’s not easy,
To be calm when you’ve found something going on.
But take your time. Think a lot.
Think of everything you’ve got.
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.
How can I try to explain? When I do he turns away again.
It’s always been the same, same old story.
From the moment I could talk, I was ordered to listen.
Now there’s a way, and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.
It’s not time to make a change,
Just sit down, take it slowly.
You’re still young, that’s your fault,
There’s so much you have to go through.
Find a girl, settle down,
if you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy.
All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside,
It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it.
If they were right, I’d agree, but it’s them you know not me.
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.