The Magical Mystery Tour

by Michael W. Stowell

January 20, 2003


The bus ride from Arcata to the demonstration in San Francisco began on Friday, the 17th, as a community event. Our two Veterans For Peace buses were loaded with folks who carried a variety of perspectives and a limited amount of baggage. Cheered by people on streets as we departed, I felt a sobering sense of responsibility; the hearts of many went with us. There was a high school senior who was attending his first demonstration with the intent of finding a more effective course of action. There was a middle-aged mother searching for ideas to assist our local Green Party with outreach and mobilization. There were tree-sitters who left their charge to others and went searching for a greater voice, carrying with them a most appropriate sign, "There's A Terrorist Behind Every Bush." Many of us were heading into an unknown, a BIG city, with little idea of how we would be changed, gambling with our own emotions.

Evolution is like that.

That evening's full moon and clear sky transformed our journey. We traveled through 'dreamworld' in our galactic buses with a quiet sense of awe and profound humility. We knew we were changing the course of history with every turn of the great wheels on which we rode and I felt our hearts rejoice with the hope given only to pioneers. We would speak out when others fell silent, we would march while others sat still, we would change though others would not, and we would do so with the help of each other.

Upon our evening arrival at Berkeley's Unitarian church, we were welcomed with respite and refreshment and a sanctuary for silence and sleep.

Demonstration morning dawned early.

I arrived at the Embarcadero overwhelmed by the number of people who had joined in the great march for peace and justice. How many? I had no idea. As far as I could see, in every direction to which I turned, a great sea of humanity flooded the streets of civilization, holding signs, waiving banners, playing music, dancing and chanting and moving as one.

I was immediately stricken by the diversity I witnessed in this great cloud of people. There were GeeDubya masks in business suits and fiddlers and jugglers and dancers and clowns of every stripe and color, people in every imaginable costume. But mostly, we were common every-day people dressed as usual doing an unusual thing. We were speaking out, we were demonstrating our opposition to the powers of hatred and fear. We were mothers and fathers pushing strollers and carrying signs. We were elderly people with banners. We were teens and union members and veterans and school children and teachers and lawyers and doctors. We were of every race and creed and color and we were all voicing our opposition to the terrible injustices of this world, to the war on life. We were one.

I arrived at the Civic Center a changed person. At some point during that march my evolution took place. I am no longer a person living in fear. I am not alone, anymore.

Last night, as I reflected upon my journey, I was reminded of the words of a great prophet and poet, Bob Dylan:

"Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

"Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

"Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

"Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

"The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'."

In my evolution I find my journey without end, without arrival, and in myself I find all others. Time is just a speedometer on this magical, mystery bus...this magical, mystery bus we call life.

Take the tour.


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Veterans for Peace

Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley


Michael W. Stowell is a local activist in Northern California.

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Published January 20, 2003
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