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Could you be Loved? Human and Divine Love

Could you be Loved? Human and Divine Love

Could you be Loved? Human and Divine Love

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Bob Marley was sometimes plagued by doubts about his relationship with Jah Rastafari.


Despite his unwavering faith and the popularity that Bob Marley enjoyed, he was sometimes plagued by doubts about his relationship with Jah Rastafari. This apprehension took many forms and became even more pronounced after the attempts on his life. The unwillingness of his listeners--sufferahs-- to wake up to the message of liberation preached by visionaries such as Marcus Garvey and the corruption that he witnessed in Caribbean and African leaders was a constant source of disappointment. Although he faced many challenges, Bob never gave up hope and throughout his career, he was willing to explore his doubts and faith through his songwriting and interviews.

Bob MarleyAs a devout Rastafari who was opposed to Babylon and as a musician who had gained enormous wealth from Babylon, Bob tried to reconcile his beliefs about the oneness of humanity with the contradictions he observed and to maintain balance between his materialist ambitions and spiritual goals. For while he actively courted the adoration of his listeners, "Play I on the R&B/ Want all my people to see/We’re bubbling on the top 100/ Just like a mighty dread,"("Roots Rock Reggae"), Bob was acutely aware of karmic balance: "For every little action/There’s a reaction" ("Satisfy My Soul"). This tension is evident in a comparison of "Waiting in Vain" where Bob declares, "It’s Jah love that I’m waiting on," and in "Zion Train" where he combines Proverbs 16:16: "How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!" and Mark 8:36: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" to create the remarkable lyric: "Don't gain the world and lose your soul/ Wisdom is better than silver and gold ." The pull of the divine and the lure of the earthly surfaced many times in Bob's life, and in "Could you be Loved?" Bob transformed personal anguish into a psalm of redemption.

Bob begins by repeating the question, "Could you be loved and be loved?" By repetition and his interchangeable use of the word "loved," it’s as if Bob is turning the question in his mind about divine love and earthly love--with all its implications for the fraternal and erotic. This seems entirely plausible when one considers the central tenet of Rastafari:  the awakened individual ("I’) realizes his oneness with the community and the divine (the Higher "Iya" man) or InI.

From this viewpoint, Bob issues a warning, which is rooted in the Manichean vision of Rastafari:

 Don't let them fool ya,
 Or even try to school ya! Oh, no!
 We've got a mind of our own,
 So go to hell if what you're thinking is not right!

A careful listener to Bob’s music will notice that when he uses the second person "you" as in "You running and you running, and you running away," ("Running Away") he is often talking about himself. Also any statement from "they" as in "They say we’ve got to fulfill the book" ("Redemption Song") or "dem" as in "Dem say we free again" ("Trench Town Rock"), should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism if not disbelief. From Bob’s perspective, "they" and "dem" are a part of the "Babylon System" of enslavement and downpression from which the sufferahs through their own volition must free themselves:

 They say what we know
 Is just what they teach us
 Thru political strategy
 They keep us hungry
 When you gonna get some food
 Your brother got to be your enemy
 ("Ambush in the Night")

As a "son of light," Marley identifies himself as a spiritual man as opposed to the materialist "dem":

 But I say: we no know how we and dem a-go work it out:
 Dem a flesh and bone!
 We no know how we and dem a-go work it out.
 ("We and Dem")

It is also interesting to note Marley’s use of the rhyme "fool" and "school." This is a recurrent theme in Jamaican/Caribbean music. From the Mighty Sparrow ("Dan in the Man in the Van") through Peter Tosh ("You Can’t Blame the Youth") through Julian Marley ("The Master has Come Back") and Stephen Marley ("Mind Control"), the government uses state sanctioned education to perpetuate ignorance: "Brainwash education to make us the fools" ("Crazy Baldheads"). Or as Bob stated, "We don't have education we have inspiration; if I was educated I would be a damn fool. (Time Will Tell). Bob’s plea for his listeners to follow his example of "Resisting against the system" ("One Drop") is taken from the biblical junction in Romans 12:2: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind."

For if an individual persisted in conforming to Babylon, he would be on the path to hell. And what is hell? Again, the Rastafari concept of InI is useful. Hell is created when an individual ("I’) thinks that he is separate from the community and the divine ("nI"). By exercising free will, he becomes one of "dem." It was from this insight that Bob wrote "So Much Trouble in the World": "Men sailing on their ego trips/blast off in their space ships/ no care for you/ no care for me." The individual, who has willfully cut himself from human and divine connection, drifts in a world of despair.

However, in the midst of the struggle of light and darkness, there is always hope:

 Love would never leave us alone,
 A-yin the darkness there must come out to light.

In the Iniverse of Rastafari, one is never alone even when "The road of life is rocky and you may stumble too." Yet while enduring the tribulations, one should avoid judgmental labels for, "While you point your fingers someone else is judging you." The "someone else" could also be the "Iya man" or conscience as Bunny Wailer sang in "Pass it On":

 What your hands do,
 It's your own eyes that see,
 So won't you judge you're actions
 To make sure the results are clean.
 It's your own conscience that is gonna remind you
 That it's your heart and nobody else's
 That is gonna judge.
 Be not selfish in your doings,
 ("Pass it on")

Judgment as an act of the ego also cuts off the individual from the community. From the first song Bob wrote, "Judge Not," to one of the last songs, "Forever Loving Jah," he warned against judging by appearances:

 They say we're going wrong to all the people we meet;
 But-a we won't worry, we won't shed no tears:
 We found a way to cast away the fears,
 Forever, yeah!

 We'll be forever loving Jah. We'll be forever!
 We'll be forever loving Jah. Forever, yes, and forever!
 We'll be forever loving Jah. There'll be no end.
 ("Forever Loving Jah’)

Labels and judgments are limited. In "Judge Not," Bob strikes a cautionary tone for anyone who persists judging others: "Judge not/ If you're not ready for judgment." But there is a way out. Again, Bob offers a way out of the hell of separation and judgment by urging his listeners to "Love your brother man."

Love passes over judgment and repairs the seeming disconnect between the human and the divine. And while one may have doubts (unawakened human love is fickle), the love of Jah is constant:

 Many a time I sit and wonder why
 This race so - so very hard to run,
 Then I say to my soul: take courage,
 Battle to be won,
 Like a ship that's tossed and driven,
 Battered by the angry sea, yea-eah!
 Say the tide of time was raging;
 Don't let the fury fall on me, no, no!

 Cause I know
 Jah will be waiting there;
 Ain't it good to know now:
 Jah will be waiting there.
 ("I Know")

And if we love our brother man, we love Jah. In the world of Rastafari, man and God are one: "Almighty God is a living man" ("Get up, Stand up").

Bob MarleyIn the next stanza, Bob returns to the theme of succumbing to Babylon. This time, however, he rhymes "change" and "rearrange" to speak about life choices and alignment with "dem":

 Don't let dem change ya, oh! -
 Or even rearrange ya! Oh, no!
 We've got a life to live.
 They say: only - only -
 only the fittest of the fittest shall survive -
 Stay alive! Eh!

This is the life-affirming message of Rastafari that Bob repeated throughout his career: "Stay alive." For New World Africans whose history, according to the textbooks (written by "dem") began as chattel on the auction block (owned by "dem), the idea that "Life is your right," is part of the redemption song  that Marley sang with Peter Tosh in "Get up, Stand up":

 Most people think,
 Great God will come from the skies,
 Take away everything
 And make everybody feel high.
 But if you know what life is worth,
 You will look for yours on earth:
 And now you see the light,
 You stand up for your rights. Jah!

Bob knew for many of the sufferahs, survival is at best tenuous, and it easy to become one of "dem" by giving into desire. As Bob confessed, desires of the ego have led many, himself included, off the path: "My only vice is having many women" (Bob Marley im Interview mit Patrick Barrat).

As someone who had been in love many times and who had written about the highs and lows of erotic love, Bob warns about the insatiability of desire: "You ain't gonna miss your water until your well runs dry/ No matter how you treat him, the man will never be satisfied." But with help of reggae/rockers Bob issues a challenge to himself to write songs that "say something." This was a commitment that he voiced many times:

 Oh Lord, give me a session
 Not another version!
 ("Mix up, Mix up")

For although Bob had written a fair amount of love songs, "Me have to sing love songs" (Talkin’ Blues), reggae/rockers was ultimately not just about writing songs that said "Baby, baby I love you." Bob wanted to write music to "free the people":

 We come from Trench Town,
 Come from Trench Town;
 We come from Trench Town.
 Lord we free the people with music (sweet music);
 We free the people with music (sweet music);
 We free our people with music,
 With music, oh music (oh music)!
 ("Trench Town")

And not just "his people" from Trench Town, but all people: "Me speak to all the children. Me speak to everything that moveth and liveth pon the earth" (Talkin’ Blues). To the extent that Bob poured his personality into his craft is testament to his longevity as a cultural icon and may explain why so many people from different cultural backgrounds can identify with his songs. And while some chose to divide humanity on the basis of race/class and become "dem," Bob would have none of it: "Yeah. I've come to realize se dem really divide wi in classes. Yes, and is true. Dem try fi divide wi in classes weh mi don't agree with. Because is wickedness. Yuh cyaan divide people. How can yuh divide the people? Some ah dem nuh have four foot?" (So Much Things to Say). Bob didn’t just "believe" in the oneness of humanity; he knew it in every fiber of his being:

 One love, one heart,
 Let's get together and feel alright.
 ("One Love")

Ezra Pound once said, "Literature is news that stays news" and the same could be said about Marley’s songs. For even as "they" plunge into the future with ideas of progress and securing material comforts, thesufferahs should remember that at the time of composition of "Could you be Loved," Bob was surrounded by material comforts, the love of many women, and the adoration of the Idren. Yet in the midst of all this, he could still raise the question about his love, our love for ourselves and each other (InI): "Could you be loved? And be loved?"

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Posted by bonaventure bone on 04.14.2011
Bob is a real hero I will never forget even though he gone he still dwells in my heart. Long live rasta root.

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