“Meanings Will Change”

Forty-five years ago, I listened a lot to Noel Paul Stookey’s first solo album titled, Paul and…. Then I loaned it to someone and never got it back, and forgot about it. Last year, I happened on the CD in an online ad and decided to purchase it. It was like meeting a lost friend, and renewing that long-ago acquaintance. And it has been fun to ponder my life in the early 1970s and compare that to now.

One song especially has given me pause. I hear it far differently now than I did in 1971. And I want to share the words with you, and let you ponder them. The song is titled Meanings Will Change:

Meanings will change as you learn to grow,
And all that is known becomes suddenly old.
And that which you had to last you ’til the end,
Turns out to be just a passing friend.
And would you spend your life away
Collecting great treasures.
So you’d be safe someday?
And when you’re old, and when you’re gray
meanings will change; life’s just that way.
When you’re finally sure
You think you understand,
All about living and life’s demands.
Someone will touch you and you’ll see again,
Meanings will change; you just can’t win.
So don’t you worry ’bout your money friend
Don’t you worry ’bout your fame.
It’s all a conspiracy; all part of a game
And you’re the conspirator; the silent enemy,
and you’re the victim. You finally see.
After you get to where you have to be,
After you own everything you see,
When meanings don’t change
About the things you knew,
You might as well die, it’s all over for you.
If you’re wise and if you know,
What few things are real which never grow old.
Then take them now and make you a start,
With a simple life and a simple heart.
Songwriters: Noel Paul Stookey and Billie Keith Hughes
Meanings Will Change lyrics © Glass Sea Music Inc. % Noa Noa Music Inc.

Author: Bob Mayer

Bob Mayer is Senior Librarian and Associate Professor of Theological Bibliography at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He loves good books, especially the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Henri Nouwen, and C.S. Lewis. He also enjoys film, especially movies that cause him to reflect theologically and culturally on important themes and questions.