Talent is forged in solitude, character in the tumult of the world. —Goethe
Time for a confession. I love the courtroom drama. I love the war with words. I love lining up arguments like a regiment of soldiers. Just after the moment of feeling betrayed, wronged, astonished, outraged, some part of me is shouting “Yippee! Let’s get to work! Here’s your chance to re-define what you stand for, re-articulate your values, test out how much you care about them and see how much heat you can stand in the kitchen of conflict.”
I was born into adulthood in the tumult of the late ‘60’s, but it was a birth midwifed in a room with soft lighting and caring people. I expected the world to be ultimately a loving and good-hearted place and approached people and situations as if. And minus a couple of dicey hitchhiking stories, the world mostly bore out my expectations as time after time I experienced the kindness of strangers and the goodness of friends. Then I set to work in my little corner of Utopia at the San Francisco School, with a side-community of huggy Orff folks. Of course, Greek tragedy and Shakespearean drama was always lurking below the surface, but mostly it was a delightful romp in La-la Land.
But somewhere around six or seven years ago, Tumult found my hiding place and came at me with a vengeance. It creeped under the gates of my school, slipped in the door of the national Orff meetings, met me around the corner of all the institutions I encountered in furthering my work. And this Mr. Naïve was constantly taken by surprise time and again. Each new outrage knocked me to the ground and sat heavy on my shoulders.
And yet I always managed to get up. And now I’m more prepared. Not that it all hurts any less, but I’m just a trifle less shocked. I’m back in the tumult now (with a lot of company) with my national Orff organization and I’m trying to weather this storm so I don’t get too battered. So I made myself a little primer to remind me how to get through it all. As follows:
• Speak out—then duck.
• It’s not what’s right, but who has might. But speak the truth anyway.
• Betrayal is as everyday as bread. And no-carb diets don’t work.
• Expect less of the world, but keep fighting.
• Don’t be a silent worker on the assembly line of manufactured consent.
• Don’t pin your hopes on someone changing. They won’t.
• Don’t be silent because they want you to, but for your own health, shut-up occasionally
and go play the piano.