Saturday, May 21, 2016
I Am Mine No More – Anonymous
The artist may have been a group, in fact, that began to express themselves somewhere in America. The song “I Am Mine No More” is so simple, easily learned, and generally applicable to the lifestyle of such a broad spectrum of people that its development is not that unusual. There are lots of folk hymns with no known author or composer, for they spring forth from a way of life common to a generation or generations. Perhaps someone first uttered the sentiment and others nearby appended the tune with other verses to further encompass the broader reality they all experienced as one. (Perhaps not unlike the sense expressed in this Eastman Johnson painting of a slave saying “The Lord Is My Shepherd”.)That’s how something becomes popular, accepted. What’s the message this person or group wanted to convey?
“I am mine no more” was a statement, an act, and an emotion born from perhaps a situation that this individual or group found was impossible to manage. The human urge to control had morphed into submission. Much of American folk hymnody emerged from the slave era of southern U.S. plantation life, from a group that did not control their own destiny. Families were often split because property–even if it was human--could be divided to pay debts to various creditors, one of several reasons for this sad phenomenon. One could see how ‘property’ might sing this as a blues song, as flesh and blood was dehumanized, becoming the object of a financial transaction. At least they could soothe the deep hurt by reminding themselves that ultimately they belonged to an owner—God—who was benevolent beyond what they could expect here on earth. Additionally, if they spilled blood as a result of injustice, they could sense the brotherhood with a God who’d done the same. It was a memory that helped others like them manage life, such as it was, with hope.
Though slavery like mid-19th Century America has ended, there are still other prisons people inhabit. That would explain why “I Am Mine No More” endures. It might be a campfire song, sung freely by kids or adults, but life has many difficulties – physical, emotional, and spiritual. Like the song’s origin suggests, the singer of this tune must grasp that life as out of control. Some things just cannot be surmounted here. Even He found no way out, except death and transportation to another plane. What He wants me to know is that I need not feel powerless, despite the submission I must accept. In fact, I tap into power when I do.