In 1964, Johnny Cash wrote a letter.
Sing Out!, an influential music magazine, had criticized Bob Dylan for straying too far from his folk roots.
Mr. Cash had yet to meet Mr. Dylan. But he had seen a man under attack.
“A lamp is burning in all our dark,” the Man in Black wrote in his open letter. “But we must open our eyes to see it…SHUT UP! AND LET HIM SING!”
Bob Dylan still has that letter.
Criticism is common. The world is noisy with people doling it out and feeling smarter, better, holier because of it. I’ve been in that camp more than I care to admit.
Support is less common. Walking with someone others have walked away from. Standing up for someone others have beaten down.
It’s not some benevolent act of heroics. It’s empathy, deep and raw. Empathy that takes us outside ourselves and sticks our heart squarely in the wound of another. Mr. Cash got in the trenches with Mr. Dylan.
There’s only one Johnny Cash. But we all have that chance.
And it’s a chance worth taking. Not for applause or a favor in return. But because it interrupts the common noise of our times and pushes history towards opened eyes.