You, who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so, become yourself
Because the past is just a goodbye
Even now, decades after first hearing those words, their gentle melodic harmonies swell my heart with both sadness and joy. Joy because they resurrect an ageless time in my life of unimaginable exuberance and limitless potential. Sadness because David Crosby died last week at 81. He was a founding member of the iconic group that recorded “Teach Your Children” in 1969. And so I am once again confronted with the realities of what their music conveyed.
Teach your children well
Their father’s hell did slowly go by
And feed them on your dreams
The one they pick’s the one you’re known by
I was a 20-year-old college student when Crosby, Stills, & Nash released that song. Like Crosby, I had grown up in Southern California amidst the glistening swirls of change. Like him, I had gotten swept into the overlapping worlds of psychedelic drugs and radical politics that we thought would create a new world. And, as he and others began articulating the counterculture that emerged, I, without reservation, fully embraced it.
Don’t ever ask them, “Why?”
If they told you, you would cry
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you.
Ours was a reality, we believed, that our parents could never share or understand. For they were old and uncomprehending. They lived in a different universe. What to them seemed foolishly extreme, to us constituted not a choice but a necessity. And so the journalists of that era invented a term both timely and eternal: the so-called “generation gap.” Which inspired groups like Crosby, Stills, & Nash to try bridging its wide, heartbreaking, and seemingly impenetrable chasm.
And you of tender years
Can’t know the fears
That your elders grew by
And so, please help
Them with your youth
They seek the truth
Before they can die
Now I exist on the far side of that historic rift. Crosby, one of my generation’s greatest artistic luminaries, is dead. What, if anything, does that mean for my own myriad offspring? What kind of world will they inherit? How much of what I leave behind will they find insidious or useful?
The answers to those questions, of course, are unknowable. Only time will tell. With any luck, I shall live long enough to at least catch a glimmer. In the meantime, I am reminded of another song the group–by then known as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young—released the following year called “Our House.”
I’ll light the fire while you place the flowers
In the vase that you bought today
Come to me now and rest your head for just five minutes
Such a cozy room, the windows are illuminated
By the evening sunshine
Fiery gems for you, only for you…
I think of that song often these days, relaxing with my wife on the veranda of the house we built overlooking the ocean just outside Surigao City. In all likelihood, it is the last home I will ever occupy. My fondest hope is for those fiery gems to one day light the lives of my children as they have illuminated the days of my own.
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David Haldane’s latest book, “A Tooth in My Popsicle and Other Ebullient Essays on Becoming Filipino,” is now available on Amazon. A former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, where he contributed to two Pulitzer Prize-winning stories, Haldane is an award-winning author, journalist, and radio broadcaster with homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines. This column appears weekly in the Mindanao Gold Star Daily.