The other day I was mentioning this to a friend who leans conservative (Okay, lean is not a strong enough word. He doesn’t lean right he is bent that way). I said that my son may be headed towards a career in music. The first words out of my friends mouths were, “Can he make money doing it?”
Now, I am not going to berate my friend for saying that, it is the same thing my dad used to say to me when I started college right after I got out of the Army. I don’t think it is a conservative or a liberal thing. It is an American thing. We judge occupations by how much money someone can earn. Why is an artist less valuable than a stockbroker? Why is a musician less valuable than a banker? Why is the writer less valuable than a professional athlete?
Our lives are filled with art, music, and prose – yet when someone goes into one of those professions the first question someone inevitably asks is, “How much can you make doing that?” No one asks the real estate agent or IT guy that question. A few years ago when I was working towards my Masters in communication and I mentioned to a relative that I wanted to work for a non-profit, a union, or other institution writing about social justice, that I wanted to do good in the world. Her first question to me was, “Can you make any money doing that?” At the time I did not know how to answer. Today I do.
Life should not be about the attainment of wealth. Life should be about doing the right thing and following your passions. I am forty-six and I just figured this out over the last couple of years. Most of my life my late father’s voice, and his depression era upbringing, has been in the back of my head telling me to work hard and to support my family, that my wants and desires are secondary to making money. I loved my dad even though we had our problems…but I realize now that he was wrong.
Our nation’s obsession with wealth and the pursuit of fortune has driven us to a precipice. A rocky crag where who your parents are matters more than what your natural talents are. A cliff where one percent of the population, which holds the vast majority of wealth, is at the top and ninety-nine percent of the population is at the bottom of the escarpment - and they are trying to claw their way up a smooth rock wall with no hand-holds. We need to stop the madness and stop pursuing wealth at any cost. Our society must change – our culture must change. We, as a society, spend too much time obsessing over the lives of the rich and famous and how to be like them that we often lose sight about what is really important.
My son is thirteen, and if he decides he wants to live the life of a musician then I will stand behind him every step of the way, his happiness is what is important. I will not ask him if he thinks he can make money doing it – I will provide encouragement and support for him to follow his dreams.