Yes; there is corruption and “ill gotten gains" Yes, there are people who thrive through the misuse and exploitation of others. However, I believed now as I believed growing up that this is more the exception than the rule.
I grew up firmly middle class. There were many friends and families below and above us in the economic strata literally within blocks – if not houses – from us. As children, we knew intuitively who was "better off" than we were. If someone’s father (I’m not being sexist, when I grew it t was pretty much the dads who went to work) had a job that involved air travel, particularly international travel, they were in the upper tier. Some parents worked in tee-shirts, others in suits. Although there might have been a little envy for the “things” others had, the cars they drove, etc., we never resented people for what they did or what they had. If someone was educated, worked at a desk or in an office, we were raised to respect their achievements, not disdain them. We admired those who succeeded and we generally believed that they had earned and deserved what they achieved. The notion that we should resent people for what they did and what they had would have been entirely foreign to us. We respected doctors, teachers, lawyers, business owners and whole host of careers as representative of what could be accomplished in our country – some with and others without much formal education.
Somehow, I slept through a cultural transformation. It seems to me that anyone who has not themself achieved has been given free license to resent and disdain those who have. The societal assumption seems to be, “you cannot possibly deserve more than I have no matter how hard you have strived and worked for it.” I do not know where this came from or where it started, but is seems to go hand-in-hand with the entitlement mentality that has become ingrained in our culture - particularly our youth. It seems having something has increasingly little to do with actually deserving it.
Clearly it is the lot of every generation to bemoan the music of the generation that follows. Fine; now it’s our turn.
I will not linger endlessly on this point, but it seems to me that every generation is destined to have its music imprint on it in its critical teen and early twenty years. And no music is likely to mean the same thing to us again for the rest of our lives. I have some musical training – training that my children have now outpaced. I also had the pleasure of growing up and around great friends that were gifted and dedicated musicians. As such, I was lucky; I had wonderful guides to the music that was evolving around me through the seventies – firmly locked into the progressive rock era. We listened actively to bands like the Who, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, and Yes, to name a few (I could go on at greater length, but you get the idea).
And I use the term actively listened for a reason. Listening back then was an active process. Who does not have some memory of picking up a new LP from a great band, running it home – perhaps with some friends and quietly and intently ACTIVELY listening to it - reading the liner notes, checking the line-up, etc. We would listen again and again, dissect the music, talk about time signatures, guitar riffs, base lines, how “tight” the band was, what influences were present; was this a natural progression from the last album or a new direction? We were listening to composers and compositions – not just a bunch of songs. Who can forget their first listen to Tull’s Songs from the Wood. ELP’s Brain Salad Surgery, or Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. These were more than just songs or pop, they were revelations. Indeed they were and are timeless. I am quite certain that someday historians will look upon these works and others like them with the same regard as great classical compositions of old.
I will not attack the current generation’s music, but I do feel extremely lucky to have grown up at a time of such musical giants and genius with a great bunch of friends. I have also been lucky enough to share some of these masterworks with my own children - and see them actually enjoy them. I hope it lasts! Maybe it will even “imprint.”
How often do we thank someone? What do we think merits a thank you? If someone is just doing their job, should we thank them? From my observations, a good many people would say “no, why thank someone for doing what they’re paid to do?!” A modest suggestion: Let’s all add a few more “thank you’s” to our daily interactions.
If you are fortunate enough to be in a position where someone reports to you or “works for” you, say thank you when a task is completed; throw in a thank you at the end of the work day. If a further compliment is warranted for a job particularly well done, don’t be stingy. If you are eating out, thank the busboy when he pours your water or takes your plate (and be thankful that you can afford to have others wait on you while you’re at it). You may be the only person that day to even acknowledge his/her existence. I bet they notice. We may think it doesn’t matter; but it does. At any rate, it costs us nothing and may, if only for a moment, make someone feel valued and appreciated - a worthy investment in a single word I think!
Maybe this could even catch on. Imagine a world where everyone takes an extra second to thank another even if they are “just doing their job.” Then again, this could lead to total anarchy.
What do we do to ensure a meaningless and close-cropped conversation? We use our “sing-song” voice. We extend our words and close sentences with a prolonged syllable and an upward inflection. “Hello; how are you?” become heelloooo, how arrrrrrre youuuuuu?’ and the tone streams upward with each extended syllable and trails off at the end.
This is code for, “I am just exchanging an obligatory pleasantry, and I neither want nor expect a truly responsive let alone meaningful answer.” The proper response is a sing-song “fiiinnnne and youuuuuuuu?” You answer with a quick “fine” of your own and the conversation – if you can call it that – is over.
Just listen, these meaningless exchanges surround us. And when we ask the sing-song “how are you” question and get a genuine response like “Lousy, I have had a stomach virus all week, and my husband is an ass,” we are genuinely annoyed. We think to ourselves, gees, I’m sorry I asked. But we did ask – sort of! But alas our sing song invitation was ignored, and we got a truly responsive answer. Shame on them.
Next time you encounter a friend on the street, ask them how they are very matter-of-factly. They will look at you like you are from Mars(!), probably wondering if you know something or heard something worrisome about them.
This is not a judgment. We all do it and will always do it. It is fascinating though how early and eagerly we can turn one another away from a truly meaningful exchange of thoughts and ideas.
Elevating the Conversation – And Others Along with It?
There is something wonderful and intoxicating about being the “guest of honor.” Whether formal or informally recognized, you can observe the pecking order at any social gathering. The guests may include the very interesting “honored guest” comfortably ”holding court” – someone it seems everyone wants to meet and impress. At the other extreme, you have the quiet “wall flower” unable to engage in any conversation and perhaps looking awkward and uncomfortable. As we meet and encounter others, how easy is it to crave an elevated position, turn the conversation towards ourselves, avail ourselves of the well-placed name-drop?
Here’s a suggestion, and not an easy one, when next in such a situation, resist the temptation to be the most important person in the room. Stop competing. Rather, make it your mission to elevate those to whom you speak to that position instead. Really talk to them; find out about them; be genuinely interested. Start with those who seem to be on the periphery of the event, and truly engage them. You may make his/her night. The difference may well be the difference between being thought the most important person in the room and actually having been so.