If an enlightened person draws out the plan for a prison on the ground, why can’t they get out?

~ Xutang’s Three Questions, Entangling Vines, Case 143

What is the nature of true freedom? If inside and outside are not two, as we say in Zen, how then do we escape from a prison that we believe others have put us in, or one that we have created ourselves? Perhaps if we can know that Joe Hill never died, it will help.

I recently watched news clips of the yellow-tee shirted “Wall of Moms (and Grandmas)” in Portland, at least some of whom assured their families they would stay safely to the back, but instead found themselves locked in arms at the front of the march. It is not hard to imagine my own mother, were she alive and in Portland, walking that line. A number of times she piled her six kids into the Chrysler station wagon to join peaceful Vietnam War protests and demonstrations against nuclear weapons at the Lawrence Livermore Lab. She was a grandma rabble rouser, and we were proud of her for it.

Somehow I came across several of the recordings of the old labor organizing song, “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night”, about an itinerant laborer and member of the socialist Wobblies (IWW), who in 1914 was unjustly, many believe, accused of murder in Salt Lake City and executed the following year.

The famous African-American artist, Paul Robson, helped made the song popular in the 1930s (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8Kxq9uFDes), Joan Baez (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-JW4DKxwQM) and Pete Seeger sang it in the 1960s, and just a few years ago, and Bruce Springsteen (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2UF8yw89yE) reprised the song on tour.

It begins like this:

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night

Alive as you or me

Says I, But Joe, you’re ten years dead

I never died, says he

I never died, says he