Sunday, November 6, 2016

Legacy


I remember Mr. Moffat, my 11th grade English teacher, sitting on his desk and telling us high school students wondering what it’s all about, Alfie, that the meaning of life is making more of us. A back door discussion about our instinct for preservation and continuity of the species. And nature’s assurance that our obsessive sexual urges would fulfill its mandate, its perfect plan to make sure we’ll keep propagating. At 7 billion strong, I’d say it has worked.

But while our animal brothers and sisters are content just to have puppies and kittens, we ask more of our children. We want them to carry forward the family name or keep the family business going or travel to the places we couldn’t reach and to remember us when we’re gone. We care about legacy.

This on my mind the morning after what turned out to be a fun, envigorating and satisfying Orff Conference. Went to many workshops of the next generation down, many of whom I had helped train, and I liked what I saw. The spirit and thought and way of teaching that I spent a lifetime cultivating, the torch I received from my teacher Avon, was still burning in their young hands and for almost the first time in the past ten years, I had hope that the kind of vitality I feel in my close colleagues would continue on when we set off for our retirement golf courses. That felt good. That sense of an unbroken line has always been important to me, the thing I feel so strongly in the lineage of jazz or Zen Buddhism or social justice work and yes, Orff Schulwerk, that sense that we don’t work in an isolated moment, but carry on the music begun before us and get in singing it those who will come after.

And then the opposite. The sense that everything you cared about will vanish, whether from human disaster or natural or just the lack of the right people showing up at the right time. I’ve mentioned before my tiny pain that my childhood home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, but what about the massive collective pain of all the Native Americans whose lands and homes were taken from them, never to return? I complain that my daughter’s family can’t live in a San Francisco become ridiculously expensive, but what about our 400 years of slavery where amidst the pain of back-breaking work and whippings from masters, there was no hope that one’s children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren and beyond would escape from the brutality and agony of being seen and treated as sub-human? And so on up to the disappearance of a whole people, the extinction of a language, the current refugee crisis. That’s something we rarely stop to consider. Our deep human need for continuity that gives shape and meaning to the everyday broken by our failure to treat each other well. A good thing to remember on the cusp of an election!

Meanwhile, so happy to see the young folks in the Orff world stepping up and dancing so well! Carry on, my friends! And let me know how I can help you.

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