What Do You Really Need?
“I got plenty o’ nuttin’ and nuttin’s plenty for me.”
Most of you know the song, but some may not know the context. The man singing is Porgy. He’s a poor black man living in the tenements of catfish row in Charleston, SC in the 1920’s. He’s a “cripple” and a beggar who has nothing … or so it would seem.
“I got no car, got no mule.” But just as importantly, “I got no misery.”
He’s happy, because “I got my gal, got my Lord, got my song … got heaven the whole day long.”
He’s happy, because he has his Bess.
Without getting too deeply into the story, they’re a most unlikely pair. She’s a young, high livin’, “happy dust” snortin’ woman of questionable character who comes to find a place in Porgy’s life after a dramatic turn of events. He takes her in when she’s in trouble. He loves her dearly and she comes to love him. She straightens herself out and finds a place in a loving community, something she’s never known before.
Why the Opera review? Well, we were in New York a couple of years ago and had the privilege of seeing a Broadway revival of Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess. And being In Charleston last week brought back the memories.
I have to tell you when they sang their duet, “Bess You is My Woman Now,” everyone in the audience was weeping. Defying the odds, they had found each other and were now pledging their love forever … “morning time and evening time and summer time and wintertime.” “We are one now.”
The music is so beautiful … the emotion so real. It was incredibly moving.
Porgy has everything he needs.
And then, Bess goes away … to New York. She’s been deceived. All Porgy knows is she’s gone.
The community tries to console him and support him and tell him he’s better off without her. He will have none of it. Bess is his life.
The final scene shows Porgy dragging his leg behind him as he struggles to walk, but walk he does … with purpose. He disappears offstage. He’s headed for New York.
Now, imagine the situation. Here’s a proud but disabled black man without a dime to his name who is setting out on foot in 1920’s South Carolina to go to New York City to find and retrieve his lost love.
It’s insane. We so want this poor man to be able to pull off a miracle … to find Bess and get her back, but he has no hope of succeeding, does he? Does he?
And that’s where they leave us.
It’s one of those theatrical experiences that stays with you, that haunts you, that occupies your thoughts for days and weeks … and years … afterward.
Porgy didn’t need anything but “the sun, the moon, the stars in the skies” … and Bess. And once she was gone, there was only one thing to do. Find her. Get her back … no matter what it took.
It got me to wondering. What do I really need? What do any of us really need in this life?
What is it that I would set out to retrieve against all odds were I to lose it? What would I set out to gain if I’d never had it?
What is so important I wouldn’t care about logic and reason? I would accomplish it or I would die trying, literally or figuratively, exhausting every avenue until I drew my last breath.
I can tell you, it wouldn’t be for money and it wouldn’t be for things.
What about you? What is so important to you that you would go to the ends of the earth to have it or have it back? What is it that so defines you and your life that without it, you truly have nothing?
For me, it was coaching. I vividly recall being led through a visualization of what my life would look like if I never became a successful coach. The idea was intolerable. I left the room bawling. I knew I had to do this.
But what about you? What’s really important to you? What do you really need?
We come into this life with nuttin’ and we leave with nuttin’. All that matters is that while we’re here, we have something worth living for.
Here’s praying that you find it … and keep it.
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