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Art as a Builder of Well-Being

Editor's Note: David Greenfield is a member of the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Chapter of the AEBC, formerly known as the Visually Impaired Persons' Action Council.

While there are many sources from which we derive a sense of wellness, I have found a wellspring of well-being through art, specifically through writing songs and poetry. I began both in my early teens and they have remained with me through the years--I am now in my early 40s. A lot of my songs, influenced by both folk and rock, have progressive social and political themes. During the 1990s, having become active in a variety of peace, social justice and environmental causes, I began performing (voice and drums) at local rallies, marches, benefits and conferences. I try to do with music what Socrates did with thought--write songs that encourage people to think. Meanwhile, my poetry has ranged a bit more between the directly political and the personal/spiritual. While I became known locally more for my songs than for my poems, I have also read from my poetry on occasion, and several years ago put some of it together in a self-published book.

The act of creating a poem or song is an act of both self-expression and participation in the universe. When you have woven together a collection of several hundred, you realize that they are like offspring that could outlive you and be read and listened to by people for many years after you are gone. Your "self" is not limited only to the body--the flesh, blood, brain and mind?that walks around and directly interacts with the world, but this collection of poems and songs is also a part of you. No one else has created exactly these combinations of words, rhythms and tones. They are unique, just as you are unique.

The fact that a lot of my material deals with socio-political themes has also meant that my art is not a totally self-focused or psychological endeavour, something to be locked away in a bottom drawer somewhere or in a super private email folder. It is something that interacts with the world and helps define my presence in it. Some of my songs might be called songs of encouragement, exhorting activists to carry on with their fight for peace and justice and giving them reason to believe their cause is winnable.

The song below uses a wonderful metaphor for social change. In the study of probability, as well as that of weather patterns, there is a theory called the Butterfly Effect, which holds that if you wanted to know what the weather would be like ten years from today, you would have to take into account every possible factor down to the air turbulence caused by a butterfly flapping its wings. This can be seen as a metaphor for history--how every action, down to the smallest scale, has an impact on how history unfolds. Every letter to the editor, every phone call to a Member of Parliament, and every march and rally has an impact on the overall picture, even if it doesn't always seem to be having an impact at the time. I thought I'd end with this song, wishing you all wellness at both the personal and socio-political levels.

Title: "Flap Your Wings"

Here amid the forest,
Beside the inland spring,
The butterflies float gently,
As they spread their wings.
The afternoon is long,
And the night is longer still.
The butterflies rest softly,
Through the trees over the hill.

Flap your wings, butterfly,
From the beginning, on to the end.
Flap your wings, by and by.
Flap your wings, and bring change to the wind.
Flap your wings, and bring change to the wind.

The butterfly is small,
And the world is o so large.
So often Planet Earth just seems,
To be a sinking barge.
But butterflies have power,
Minuscule though they may be,
And the power of the butterfly,
Is alive in you and me.

Flap your wings, butterfly,
From the beginning, on to the end.
Flap your wings, by and by.
Flap your wings, and bring change to the wind.
Flap your wings, and bring change to the wind.

High above the forest,
High above the rushing stream,
The currents gather storm clouds,
Like thought forms in a dream.
But a continent of weather,
Coastlines long and miles high,
Can be altered by the flapping,
Of the wings of a butterfly.

Flap your wings, butterfly,
From the beginning, on to the end.
Flap your wings, by and by.
Flap your wings, and bring change to the wind.
Flap your wings, and bring change to the wind.