Over the last couple of weeks, a number of people have posted on Facebook (and doubtless on other sites) a video of a song from a concert Elvis Presley performed about six weeks before his death. I found myself watching the video several times over and it took me a while to realize why I found it so compelling. It is true that I have always loved the song in question – Unchained Melody – but that wasn’t it.
At this point in his live, Elvis was a mess. Years of drug abuse had taken their toll. One journalist wrote that by early 1977, “Presley had become a grotesque caricature of his sleek, energetic former self. Hugely overweight, his mind dulled by the pharmacopoeia he daily ingested, he was barely able to pull himself through his abbreviated concerts.”
Indeed, at the beginning of the following video, Elvis is barely understandable as he staggers to the piano. But then he starts to play and to sing. And when you hear that voice, and see the occasional smile on his face, something happens. What you see is a man who had almost nothing left reach somewhere deep within himself to remind both himself and us who he was. It was his last great moment, and a deeply touching one.
[If you are getting this by e-mail and can’t see the video, click through to the blogsite.]
Today is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s I have a Dream Speech. In that speech, Dr. King, eloquently and powerfully, set forth his dream of justice, equality and freedom arising from a land of slavery and hatred.
The speech is widely hailed as a masterpiece of rhetoric. If you haven’t listened to it, you should.
As regular readers of the blog know, I gave a number of book talks/signings of Growing in Love and Wisdom: Tibetan Buddhist Sources for Christian Meditation over the last seven months. One of the first was a set of talks sponsored by the Jay Philips Center for Interfaith Studies. The Jay Philips Center is a joint project of the University of St. Thomas and St. John’s University. I did talks on consecutive evenings at each of the two universities this past November.
As I typically do in these talks, I spent some time talking about my own journey through Buddhism back to Catholicism and then talked about some commonalities between the two religious traditions and why I think meditations adapted from Buddhism can be useful for Christians.
Although it was a while coming, the Jay Philips Center has now posted a video of the talk I gave at St. John’s University in Collegeville. It was a particularly special evening for me, as many of the sisters from College of St. Benedict were in attendance. (I wrote a good part of the book at St. Benedica’s Studium.) Here it is.