I recently wrote a piece called Respect Your Elders and posted it on the national Orff Facebook page. It provoked quite a bit of reaction (some 86 responses) and surprisingly (for this medium), most of them quite thoughtful. The piece touched on various topics and it was fascinating what jumped off the page for people. Not surprisingly, the comments about electronic technology provoked the most response. We have a thousand opinions about that simply because it is so pervasive in our life. But disappointingly, the dynamic I was trying to reveal between youth and elders, what might constitute a healthy respect and what the role of each was, elicited hardly a single word. It seems to be a conversation we’re not ready to have and that itself is a symptom of some trouble in our culture.
But I did have to smile at me writing an article titled “Respect Your Elders.” Especially given the actual facts of my life. I think it’s safe to say that the values I formed and the work I engaged in were all based on rejection of what came before, of trying to change and re-make the world the elders had handed me.
Take education. I hated most of my schooling— that is, until I enrolled in Antioch College with its liberal progressive education. At Antioch, I worked at various alternative free schools in the early ‘70’s, from the Summerhill variety to a Quaker Boarding School. I landed in a Montessori preschool and eclectic elementary school in San Francisco and planted my flag there for the next four decades, attempting to correct everything the previous generation (and generations) had gotten wrong. And the surprising thing is, my colleagues and I actually succeeded in our efforts! (Still a work in progress though).
My time at Antioch was the heyday of “Don’t trust anyone over 30” and mostly we didn’t. I tried to stay on the cutting edge of a every musical innovation, be it rock, jazz or world music. I rejected racism and sexism and colonialism and war and homophobia and put myself out on the street to say so. I left aside my Jewish ethnic roots and Unitarian upbringing in favor of a Zen Buddhist practice. I protested against my narrow piano lessons and pathetic music education by encountering the dynamic transformative practice of Orff Schulwerk. I discounted my parents’ various choices they made, from childraising to politics and vowed to do just about everything differently. And mostly did.
So what am I doing writing an article titled “Respect Your Elders”?!!! Is this hypocrisy? A sell-out? An awakening? Or simply an affirmation that given my life of apparent disrespect, I might have an interesting point of view?
In starting to clarify my thoughts, I quickly realized I had opened Pandora’s massive steamer trunk! So much to say and just about all of it ambiguous. If I was invited to a debate team taking the side of the Elders or the Youth, I would be on both teams. But in-between long bike rides, swims in Lake Michigan, reading on the beach and such, I’m trying to gather the ideas into some level of coherence. This entry a mere enticement.
Whether you’re a young punk or an old fart, stay tuned!