Whether smoking, cheating, lying, or worrying, we all have something we're struggling with says Paul Poulton, and this knowledge should lead us to judge others more kindly.

Paul Poulton
Paul Poulton

Number 89 in Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time is 'California Dreamin'. The song was recorded by Barry McGuire with the Mamas & the Papas singing backing vocals. The instrumentation was provided by the legendary session band The Wrecking Crew.

The Mamas & the Papas were also interested in the song, and proceeded to record their own version of 'California Dreamin' by removing Barry McGuire's lead vocal, but using the same instrumental backing (with the addition of a flute), and placing their own lead vocals in place of Barry's.

That's the version that became known across the world and made its way into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Interestingly, Barry's McGuire's original vocal can be briefly heard on the left channel at the beginning of the record, because the first few seconds of it weren't completely erased.

The reason my mind recently veered towards this song was the lyrics of verse two which state:

Stopped into a church
I passed along the way
Well, I got down on my knees (got down on my knees)
And I pretend to pray (I pretend to pray)
You know the preacher like the cold (preacher like the cold)
He knows I'm gonna stay (knows I'm gonna stay)

I was staying in a London hotel and had a Sunday morning free, so stopped into a church. Furthermore, the preacher did seem to appreciate me being there.

I listened to what he had to say. He said something that has stayed with me. The preacher told us about a distressed man struggling to give up cigarettes who had approached him. The man wanted to be a good Christian and felt guilty that every effort to give up smoking ended in bitter failure.

The preacher, in an attempt to counsel the anxious confessor said, "Stop worrying about it! We all have something we're struggling with."

I thought "I like this preacher, he's lumping himself with the rest of us and not setting himself apart as if he's holy and we are not." And, "yes, I guess we've all got something."

In that short sentence the preacher uttered a profound insight into the human condition. We all have something; something different to the next person, but something that is a mark or blemish on us that we would rather not have.

In the song 'California Dreamin' the person pretends to pray. Maybe that's his 'something', he's a pretender.

For other people it may be that lying is their 'something'. I have a friend who tells lies quite easily. He explained to me that he tells untruths because it's the only way to "get things done, and motivate other people." He may not appreciate anyone calling him a liar, but that's what he is.

I also met a local business man who told me "the only way to get on in business is to cheat." He may not welcome anyone calling him a cheater, but if he ever ends up in court that's probably what he will be called in the judge's remarks before sentencing.