by Malvina Reynolds
You have been directed to look inside yourself for the meaning of life, for your soul.
You may find nothing there.
Because the soul is not inherent. The soul is something we accumulate in the course of living.

Living means love.
Living includes work and conflict.
How can you love if you do not face and resist the forces of destruction?
Such a course requires courage, and courage is a true value.

How can you live if you do not create, in return for the sustenance you need?
This requires effort, and effort is a true thing.
It is the source of food and beauty, and, in its use, of a resilient mind and body.

The valid community is mutually supporting.
You are not alone. You are nothing alone.
Living together, working, communicating, has made us what we are--a meaning.
In the monster cities of our time, communities disappear. People are alien to one another. The system of values of now prevents them from helping one another.

I believe that a new community is happening.
It is smothered many times by the Establishment, but it is bound to grow again.

Conversation is thinking in its natural state.
Thinking is the conversation within us.

Words distinguish us from the blessed beasts.
Words began in human beings in the process of transforming gregariousness into co-operation.
But words corrupted to manipulate others for selfish purposes are as poisonous as polluted water.

Being is the process of becoming.
Now is all that went before and the direction in which it is going.

The soul is not an inner pearl.
It is a patina created as an individual functions in a community.
Not knowing, people called it God, for it was not in the unique self nor in the world, so they could not explain it.
The soul is a function of communal being.

1967 by Schroder Music Co.

Malvina wrote this in 1967, asked me to put it into calligraphy, and made it into a tiny booklet which she handed out at concerts. After she died, I edited it for sexist language (in self-defence--someone else had done it awkwardly). Pete Seeger used my version in his Sing Out! column and wrote to me a few years ago urging me to re-issue the booklet. I didn't want to re-do the calligraphy because I didn't know how the booklet could be used. I hope putting it on the Web will bring it to a new audience. Please feel free to copy and pass it on if you like it. --Nancy Schimmel.