May Day: A Few Definitions

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Buffett, son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, is an Emmy
Award-winning composer, NY Times best-selling author and noted
philanthropist. Currently, he is releasing socially-conscious music and
touring his “Concert & Conversation” series in support of his book
Life Is What You Make It

From Wikipedia, we see there are multiple definitions for the term “May Day:”

May 1 is an ancient northern hemisphere spring festival and usually a
public holiday; it is also a traditional spring holiday in many
cultures. As Europe became Christianized the pagan holidays lost their
religious character and either changed into popular secular
celebrations, as with May Day, or were merged with or replaced by new
Christian holidays as with Christmas, Easter, etc…

2) International Workers’ Day (also known as May Day) is a celebration
of the international labor movement and left-wing movements. It commonly
sees organized street demonstrations and marches by working people and
their labor unions throughout most of the world. May 1 is a national
holiday in more than 80 countries. It is also celebrated unofficially in
many other countries.

3) Mayday is an emergency procedure word used internationally as a
distress signal in voice procedure radio communications. It derives from
the French venez m’aider, meaning “come help me.” It is used to signal a
life-threatening emergency primarily by mariners and aviators, but in
some countries local organizations such as police forces, firefighters,
and transportation organizations also use the term.

In this song, I attempt to combine elements of all three definitions. Because I see them as related.

“May Day” by Peter Buffett

Over time, it seems that many people in the “developed” world have lost their connection to the natural world, mostly through the belief that Man has dominion over nature. Instead of celebrating our connection and relationship to the changing seasons and cycles of nature–as in the original May Day–we have turned it into a spring holiday. Thankfully, it’s not as blatant as the coopting of many of the early pagan celebrations that have been converted into religious holidays–another variation on changing the story.

Changing the story can lead to confusion about what’s real. We feel the natural world working all around us. When events are shifted and renamed to achieve a different goal (like belief in a particular religious story or to reach any end that isn’t rooted in the true meaning of the event) the mind and body get confused. This feeling can disappear over time, but there’s something lingering, I think.

Consider Standard Time. It was established in 1883. Before that, there were hundreds if not thousands of local times. The railroad network in the US made standard time necessary. So suddenly a grid was placed over people’s sense of time. For many, time was marked by events–time to get up, breakfast time, time for lunch, etc.–marked by the placement of the sun in the sky. Now it was 8 a.m., 12 p.m. etc… no matter where the sun happened to be, the clock told you what time it was. People were very upset about this mandated shift in their sense of time.

Now you may think this is a stretch, but I believe that this grid–stretching from the clock to education practices to the economic system–while making “sense” for so many, actually stresses the natural rhythms of our true nature. Which leads to definition number two: social unrest. We’re seeing it every day, sometimes by groups ridiculed by not having a distinct plan or list of demands. But I believe it’s because the unrest lies in something so systemic that the system as we know it can’t respond to the changes needed. It needs to shift (back) in fundamental ways. This does not mean that all current aspects of life need to end (clocks, etc.)! But our relationships to these things do need to be reevaluated and put into perspective. And the story needs to change.

This is a process and a dialogue. I’m not claiming to have answers. Only some thoughts that I hope will lead to a conversation around how we make the world a more just and equitable place, and in better relationship to the natural world we inhabit.

Which leads to the last definition. The state that we are in is indeed more than life threatening–it’s taking lives every day. We are in a state of emergency on the planet. This does not have to lead to chaos … not revolution, but evolution.

But I will confirm that the sinking ships had something fundamentally correct: Women and children first.

Visitwww.peterbuffett.comandChange Our Storyto learn more.

Image courtesy of Speculum Mundi, licensed underCreative Commons.

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