Even if you're familiar with her popular version of this song, this is a version you've probably never heard, recorded in 1970, Joni at the piano with no accompaniment. It's beautiful. What cool chords she comes up with!
Yesterday I showed this video to my 14-year-old daughter Eileen, who plays piano and practices on an electronic keyboard in her room, after listening to her tell me about how great Lady Gaga's new album is. I said, "When you have a moment, I'll show you somebody who is really great."
She totally dug it and thought Joni was beautiful inside and out. While listening with Eileen, the phrase that stuck in my head was, "We've got to get ourselves back to the Garden."
When Joni Mitchell wrote this song in 1969, I think millions of young people and progressive people of all ages believed that it was actually possible to get back to "the Garden," that is, to live in harmony with our beautiful Eden-like all-providing planet and at peace with one another.
I went for a long walk and pondered what getting back to the Garden would actually entail.
Speaking simply, it would be wonderful to quickly change the world so that everybody had enough to eat, decent shelter, access to healthcare, quality kindergarten-through-college education for girls and boys, and even fast Internet for all! War would be taboo and peacemakers heroes. But when you think about the real world, how could it possibly work? People are at so many different levels of cultural development. Hundreds of millions of humans are barely past the Stone Age, while literally billions still function with Iron Age or medieval mindsets. Look at this map of clitorectomies! This is happening right now!
I think each new generation will be more and more open to socialism. But World War 2 vets, who saw it in person, Russians who suffered in the Gulag or lived in fear of being sent there, and the generation of Americans who came of age during the Cold War, have what I think is a healthy fear of socialism and communism. How does it work? Why, in our lifetimes, does it always seem to require a police state, heavy propaganda, and curtailed freedoms in order to function? Why are China, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam such crappy places to live?
If we suddenly, by some miracle, had progressive, charismatic leaders spring up in powerful countries worldwide, and if humans really did ban war and redistribute wealth and resources, what would the fucking idiots who are stuck in Iron Age or medieval mindsets DO with these resources? Have more kids? Raise them to believe that Iron Age "holy" books (Bible, Koran, Bhagavadgita, etc.) were actually written by God and hate people who believe in the wrong book? Continue to perform clitorectomies on their daughters?
How would you control family size and population? How could you stop people from polluting? How would you compel people to do the less pleasant (but nonetheless important to maintaining a good planet) jobs? How would you keep humans from having wars, something that, especially men, seem to need and love. Humans can't seem to get enough of wars!
To all but the most stubborn Cold War holdouts, it's quite clear that the economic reality of each country isn't as simple as black-and-white, as either communism or capitalism. Every country has it's own unique balance of socialistic and capitalistic aspects to its economic behavior. There are thousands of shades of gray. For example, in America, the present balance goes something like this: socialism for billionaires and neo-feudalism for the rest of us.
A recent paper by astrophysicists says that there are approximately 8.8 billion Earth-like planets in the known universe. I think the point of trying to get back to the Garden is to see if we can be one of the only planets to get it right. I think the intelligent beings on most inhabited planets probably nuke themselves back to the stone age again and again. The reason for fixing our world is that we have to live here anyway. Not fixing it is like sitting in a house with a leaky roof and allowing water to drip on your head, when you have the option of fixing the roof and being comfortable.
I hate to think of my dear daughter Eileen trying to raise a family someday in a world with poisoned water tables, poisoned air, radioactivity everywhere, and rife with corruption, violence, poverty, and war, a world where people live in sadness and fear. Perhaps even a world where, as Nikita Khrushchev said, "The living will envy the dead." Think about fracking and about building new nuclear power plants, and think about how eager our president is to do both!
Here is the popular version of Joni's song, which you're probably familiar with, played on electric piano with a little vocal accompaniment, to listen to, and here it is for you to download and keep.