Finding Meaning for Today in a Peter, Paul, and Mary song from the 60s

. . . Five Hundred Miles

Photo by Mark Chaves on Unsplash

If you miss the train I'm on
You will know that I am gone
You can hear the whistle blow
a hundred miles . . .

I have been waking up to these song lyrics around five o'clock every morning for a while now.  I had been woken up before by scenes from books and movies in one way or another horror filled.  This was different.  It was Peter, Paul, and Mary in their plaintive version of this song.  It's the version I remember most.  I know other singers have performed this song, Peter, Paul, and Mary's version called me in a way that no other performer has.

To me, this song fits the term archtype.  It's not the precision of the words to a situation that make it archetypal, but the emotions behind it.  You can construct a story from the words and it resonates even if your story has different facts.

A person is going home (called home? lost everything and home is the only place left? other scenario) and asks/suggests someone go too (relation?  friend?  lover?  someone close)  the scheduled train is named.  The  other person has doubts/objections .

If you miss the train I'm on
You will know that I am gone
You can hear the whistle blow
a hundred miles . . .

a hundred miles, a hundred miles,
a hundred miles, a hundred miles.

You can hear the whistle blow
a hundred miles . . .

Will the other make the train?  Will the other battle conflicting desires and arrive at the station too late?  Will the other stubbornly stand ground and try not to hear the whistle blow?

But the song's focus returns to the one going home:

Lord I'm one, Lord I'm two,
Lord I'm three, Lord I'm four

Lord
I'm 500 miles away from home
500 miles,500 miles,
500 miles,500 miles,
Lord,
I'm 500 miles away from home

My god, how far way home is.  How did I get to be so far away? Do I really even know how things are there?  What to expect?

Have they forgiven me for leaving?  Can they forgive me?  Will they take me in?  Isn't home the place where they have to take you in?

The distance is more than just miles.

 

Not a shirt on my back
Not a penny to my name

Lord
I can't go a-home this a'way
This a'way, this a'way,
this a'way, this a'way

Lord,
I can't go a-home this a'way

I don't feel like I've anything to bring.  Nothing to offer.  How will I face them?   Then -

X didn't come.  Have I burned my bridges there, too?

 

If you miss the train I'm on
You will know that I am gone

You can hear the whistle blow
a hundred miles,

a hundred miles, a hundred miles,
a hundred miles, a hundred miles,

You can hear the whistle blow
a hundred miles,’

'

In the 60s, when I was listening to this and other songs of trouble and alienation, we had the civil rights demonstrations and reactions to them; we had the Viet Nam war, the Anti-War movement, and the reactions to them.

Now, as the song is greeting me every almost-morning, we are facing the spector of death in the form of the Corona Virus, but we are also facing  the destabilization of society through both the threat of fatal illness and fatal financial hardships.  Add to this the global climate problems and all the emotions arroused by Five Hundred Miles can call us in (home). What do we do with it, though?

As we consider that here's a video of the song:

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