Sometimes we discover weird connections in our minds. I’m thirty-four years old, and, today, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is seventy years young. My father died years ago, at sixty-nine, now forever younger than the Declaration six years his junior.
One of my favourite songs — perhaps the favourite — is Joseph Kosma and Jacques Prévert — an Hungarian musician and a French poet — 1945’s “Autumn Leaves”. It doesn’t matter if it’s Miles Davis saxophone, Edith Piaf’s voice — both in English and French —, Eric Clapton’s version, or Yenne Lee Spanish guitar crying from South Korea (‘though Miles’ version will always hold a special place in my heart), I get to enjoy them all because all around this common single house in the cosmos we all live in, each gets to equally show the beauty they find, and found, in this medley. And I’m — in so many, many(!) unsung ways — privileged to enjoy them.
Another of my favourite things is the second paragraph of the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “...and the advent of a world in which humans beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief in freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,”.
And ‘though the Declaration does not mention Free Speech again, it — forever and safely — holds our hearts with this principle, framing all other Rights, within it, so essential, so fundamental, that’s not even held by a preceding number to make it law. It is that much so self-evident — and therefore, all the more vulnerable.
The last few years haven’t been easy on Free Speech. These last few years haven’t been easy on Freedom. I don’t know if they’ve ever have been. History always seems simpler and orderly when seen at a distance. Clearer. Even when it wasn’t, and it seldom was: simple, orderly, clear. We’re making it as we go along, we’ve always been making it along as we go.
So, today, take a moment. Around five-seconds — you’ll probably will have no more to spare. Take that moment to appreciate the fact that — if you’re privileged enough — We, the common people, still have it. We still have Freedom of Speech. That we’re fighting, that we’re still(!) fighting to keep it and to give it to more and more people. To make that We: larger, as parents to be. Take just one moment to appreciate that. Then get back into the fight.
Just five-seconds. Now and again. But don’t forget that this fight never ceases, it never ends. If you allow me a suggestion, you’re already know the song I’m going to recommend to accompany you today. Chose your favourite variation. Your favourite arrangement. And it would’ve been so much easier to have written this thinking about Coltrane’s “My Favourite Things”. But it’s not about what’s easier, it’s never about what’s easier. It’s only — and it’s only ever only — about what we love. About where we find the beauty — even in the ugly, perhaps even more so when we find the beauty in the ugly. What we received and what we want to pass on. And the common love for that universal song.
So lets appreciate all the different interpretations of the same medley with kindness and respect, and a particular appreciation that, seventy years ago this day, We, ourselves and our forefathers, got together to put these words down to say: now, and before and forever we should do so — together and fundamentally — listen to one another, with kindness and respect, as members of the same Human family. We, together, want to listen to the different variations, old, and young and new, of the same human song.