Two nights ago I became completely absorbed in a biography on country music legend Merle Haggard. Had I come across the listing on the TV guide I wouldn’t have given it any thought but my husband landed there channel surfing – and there I remained for the next hour and a half, entranced by the story of a man whose life couldn’t be more different than my own. Or at least so I thought. All my life people such as Merle Haggard, Hank Williams and WIllie Nelson represented everything I didn’t want to be. To me they represented right wing conservativism and a sort of redneck tribalism that left minorities outside the fringe of human rights. Merle stated that he wrote Oke from Muskogee as a response to the hippy movement of the late sixties. It “pissed him off” he said, that the hippies didn’t know what was going on in Vietnam any more than he did. The lyrics of the song reflect his resistence to the hippy movement and his pride in being an Oke from Muskogee, where they like “livin’ right” and where the “kids here still respect the college dean”. As a recovering activist and wannabe hippy his opinion on the state of things in the 60’s would have at one time affronted me greatly. But, as I sat in front of my tv, softer and more receptive at this stage in my life I realized his point. I saw through the eyes of the “other” in regard to the conflict and resistence of the 60’s. And it felt so good to be reunited with a perspective that I had rejected for so many years. I felt that he was no more right than the hippies but that both had a truth to convey, but that truth was partial. That night holding the perspective of both made my heart feel lighter. I can appreciate the idealism of a demographic desparate for something other than what the establishment can give them. But, as I learned Merle’s story I can also hold the reality of the opposite that speaks of patriotism, and the everyday struggles of people just trying to get by. Holding the opposites is the work of the non-dual tradition in yoga. I realized that my judgement of Merle and his music had been partial and disregards multidimensional nature of every human being. His songs, while being about things completely opposite than those that I tended to value came out of his attempt to deal with his life, his feelings and himself. Not so much different than what yoga or writing does for me. The name of the documentary was “Learning To Live With Myself” named after one of his songs. The depth and pain behind his eyes as he talked about his life and music reflected my own in moments when learning to live with myself is truly the hardest thing of all – and the motive behind my own yogic journey and spiritual search. Everything he wrote was a sort of “naming” of what is. He brought awareness to his feelings and life through music, just as I might through my breath and asana. So as I spent an evening with Merle Haggard I was reminded again of how each of us, no matter how far apart we may be on religious, political or economical spectrums are all trying to come to terms with our humanity. I am grateful for having stumbled on something completely out of the ordinary, leaving me feeling a sense of wholeness for recognizing myself in the “other”.