Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Some Thoughts on Economics and Equality

         Some people think I'm a Socialist because I tend to point out problems I see with Capitalism.  But that's not the case.  It's just that I do see some things about our current economic system that are problematic.  I remember asking my dad about this years ago, when I was only 14 years old.  (Guess I've always been a deep thinker.)  

    Dad's response was, "Well, it works better than anything else that's been tried, like Socialism or Communism."  He was right, of course.  But in all the 66 years of my life since then, I still haven't found an answer to my question.

        The first problem I see with Capitalism is that in many ways it's still a class-based system like the one that has dominated Western Civilization almost since its inception.  We still have an elite group even though it's now not royalty or feudal property owners.  Now we have CEO's and well-paid lobbyists and lawyers, who keep the wealth concentrated in the hands of a powerful few.

        And in order for these people on the top to have the "capital" to invest in industrial growth, that money needs to be concentrated with them, or so the system assumes.  This means Capitalism needs a large supply of cheap labor in order to amass these funds for the top.  

        By the way, the word "Capo" in Latin, and the Romance languages descended from it, means literally "the Top" or "the Head".  It's where we get the words Cap, Capital, and Capitalism.  (Ask any musician what D.C. means in a piece of music, and they'll tell you it means go back to the beginning, or the "Top" of the piece.)

        The history of our American Economy illustrates this idea of cheap labor well.  In  the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, there was a surplus of cheap labor--immigrants, even slaves, children and women.  After Child Labor Laws were established and slavery was abolished, there were still floods of poor immigrants coming in from around the world.  They were looking for a better life for themselves and their families, and so they were willing to accept menial and even dangerous jobs for low wages, in hopes of improving things for their descendants.

        Yes, there were a few large companies who took better care of their workers than most did.  But it was mainly churches and other non-profit organizations who tried to help the desperate poor.  It's no wonder that the idea of Labor Unions and Collective Bargaining found fertile soil with many of the poorly-treated laborers.  Most people seem to forget that is what Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is observing.  Now it's become nothing more than another long weekend, a celebration of the end of summer, and another chance for businesses large and small to promote and advertise themselves through "Labor Day Sales."

        Now that the flow of cheap labor has dropped drastically because of labor laws and curbs on immigration, it's really no surprise that most large companies have outsourced their manufacturing to Third World countries where they can still find cheap labor.  But what will happen when that source dries up?

        I admit that I don't have any answers, but I think we need to mull over some of these things.  How can we have an economy that gives dignity to everyone?  How can America really fulfill its promise of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" to every citizen, not just an elite few?  I hesitate to point this out, but the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were landed gentry, part of "The Top" of society at that time.  They said, "All men are created equal", but many of them owned slaves.  Were they thinking of them as "equal"?  I'm not sure.  Even after over 200 years of existence, our country hasn't really reached this ideal of equality.

        No, I'm not a Communist or a Socialist.  Those systems haven't worked either.  Human greed and government corruption eroded them.  In fact, that seems to be what is happening to our country, too.  No one wants the parties to sit down and submit to arbitration.  No one seems to be looking for what is fair, for "Liberty and Justice for All" as we say in our Pledge of Allegiance.   Instead, we're divided into camps that shout at each other rather than talking to each other.  Each side vilifying the other as wrong, and claiming their side to be right. This is a dangerous road.  At this point, all I feel I can do is pray to God in Heaven to heal and help us learn to be more like Him--for He is the one who truly wants liberty, justice, and hope for every one of us.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

In the World, But Not Of It

Jesus told his disciples to be "In the world, but not of the world."

                That's a tricky balancing act, I've found.  Some Christians move too far out of the world, isolating themselves from all other things, even living off the grid.  Some climb into ivory towers where they can look down on everything else.  To me this is a way of proclaiming they're the only ones who are right, and everyone else is wrong. 

                Now, I'm not saying to conform to every view the present world is throwing at us, or turn our backs on God or His Word in the Bible.  But lording it over others, and trying to force them into our views is not the way Jesus spread the Gospel.  And it's not the way he told his followers to do this, either.   Jesus met people where they were.  He asked them what their needs were, and then he gave them those things and proclaimed that God loved them.  He didn't say they had to obey all the legalistic laws the current religious establishment was requiring.   There were no hoops to jump through to earn God's love.

                At the center of everything Jesus did when he walked this earth was love--overwhelming love that went so far as to lay down his life for us.  St. Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (italics mine)

                So what does this mean in daily life, where the rubber hits the road?  St. Peter put it this way in his first letter: I Peter 3:15-16 "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect,  keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander."

                The best visual example I can think of is that Jesus wants us to be Lighthouses.  Not dark, angry defensive Fortresses.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Lo, How a Rose...

 "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming"
  is a well-known Christmas carol to many.  It is centuries old, as one can tell if they read the original words.  It may have been a Old English Madrigal, sung on the streets of city, town, and village.  I like it so much that I chose it as part of the music for our wedding in 1975.

In the interest of translating hymns into modern English, however, the title has changed to "Lo, How a Rose Is Growing."  Sounds nice enough, right?  But something is lost in "translation", unfortunately.  The hyphenated word "E're" literally means ever, or even better: FOREVER.  Not just growing, but never dying.  Why is this important?  Because that rose represents Jesus, who was born as a baby, became a man, died, and rose from the grave--conquering death.  His Rose will Never Die!

Besides that, he cried, hungered, grew tired, felt pain, and all the other things human bodies experience.  To think the the Lord of the Universe would stoop down so low, to be like us weak, fallible humans is beyond comprehension.

So what does all this have to do with my son's rose bush?  When he bought his house almost 2 years ago, there was this bare stump in one of the flower beds.  He did nothing to it, no watering, no pruning, but fortunately he didn't dig it up.  And lo and behold, it began to bloom this year!

What a perfect picture of Jesus' resurrection!  Lo, How a Rose Forever Blooming! 

Sunday, July 17, 2022

A Farewell to Words

It appears that blogs are becoming a things of the past. In fact, my son told me that over 6 years ago when I first started blogging at the urging of my publisher.  Now the women writers group I've belonged to for several years has ended their blogsite, too.   Nobody cares what someone else thinks anymore.  Our world is turning to visuals--pops of color, silly videos, photos.  If you can't say what you need to say in 10 words of less, no one listens.  Our world of instant everything has shortened our attention spans to almost nothing.  Just go into any kindergarten class in the nation and you will see where the future of our world is heading.

It's ironic that my first book, "The Peaks at the Edge of the World" depicted a future where the written word is obsolete and no one reads "old fashioned" books anymore.  Books are frowned on and eventually banned altogether.  Everything is on a household terminal in the form of pictures and the spoken word.  This opens the door for anyone in power who says something to go back and deny it was said.  There is no written record, and digital records are easy to change. Thus, it's simple to change history to meet any slant or bias that has moved into the limelight.  Sound familiar?

Yes, the scary part is that many of us see it happening in our world already.  The words of Simon and Garfunkel in "The Sounds of Silence" have become prophetic:  "People talking without speaking" is happening all around us, as everyone is tied to their smart phones, texting.  I know.  I do it, too.  If I want to get hold of any person under 40, the only way is to text them.  Hardly anyone answers voicemails anymore.

Today is my 70th birthday.  Looking back on my life, I think the years between 40 and 60 were the best.  It's been downhill ever since.  And the way our world is going, I fervently hope that I don't live past 80.  I don't want to end up a vegetable with Alzheimer's like my mother did. 

In my first book, there were a few rebels who held out and collected and read books, but the were always in danger of being discovered and punished.  If I am forced to live into an age like that, I know I will be one of those "Rebel Readers."

Monday, May 23, 2022

When God Calls, He Also Provides

 My Erler's Musical Expressions music party (not a recital) yesterday was well received. Five of my seven families were able to be there.  Parents and grandparents of my students came to me afterwards and thanked me for my work, and especially for focusing on the joys of music.  I think it all goes back to my early training in Environmental Education, Kindermusik, and Musikgarten:  "Process, not product is the key."  and "Follow the Child."  In other words, I try to focus on each one's interests and learning style.

At the party, I let each student volunteer to play a piece of their choice, and every one did, even though I didn't require it.  I also focused on the community that was present, briefly introducing the families to each other.  Because we're all in this together--teacher, student, and home.  It's not my accomplishment; it's all of us combined.  As the saying goes, "It takes a village."

My dear hubby, Paul, was such a big help!  Setting up, cleaning up, and just giving moral support. I'm so blessed to be married to him.  It was a lot of work, but it was well invested.  

When my mentor in Michigan, Kaye Phelps, guided me into teaching, I felt unqualified.  But God has given me what I needed, because this is a ministry He has called me to.  I'm reminded of the passages in Exodus where God called Moses to free the Israelites from Egypt.  He kept telling God, "I'm not a good speaker.  I can't do this."  But God told Moses, he would provide what he needed.  And He did.

After 30 years of teaching music, I see even more clearly how God has used me--not only for the sake of music, but for the sake of my many students and families over those years.

I don't have the energy I did 30 years ago, but I'm thankful the Lord continues to give me the strength to serve him in this way.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The Core Motivation for My Writing


Although we see evidence of God, Providence, Nature—or whatever you choose to call it—he /she/it is still unknowable to our limited perspective. I’ve read that a relationship with this entity is like a dance.  The lead partner must step back so the follower partner knows to step forward.  In the same way, God—our partner—may seem to be withdrawing or stepping away from us in times of confusion, doubt, or suffering.  However, this is really an invitation for us to draw closer to him.  It’s as though he is saying, “I have more to show you.  Come closer to me.”  This reminds me of what Aslan kept telling those he was taking into paradise in the seventh Narnia book, The Last Battle:  “Come higher up, come deeper in.”

          In the end, it all stems from Love—not a coddling or clinging sort of love.  It’s a love that transcends and remains unknowable to our finite minds.  Once we move “deeper in” as Aslan said, we begin to see what St. John wrote in the Bible, “Dear friends, we are already God’s children, right now, and we can’t even imagine what it is going to be like later on.”   Or St. Paul who said, “Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now.”  (Quotes from The Living Bible Paraphrase)

          This love and the dance it creates is the common thread that runs through all my works, and through all my life, for that matter.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

A Meaningful Life

 Like many of my peers in the 1960s, I wanted to change our world for the better.  I wanted to leave my mark and do great things.  But it didn't turn out the way I expected.  Instead of making me a leader and famous author, God morphed me into a music teacher.

Teachers in general, and especially teachers in the arts fields, are often seen as superfluous in our culture.  Something nice to have, if the school can afford it, but usually the first thing cut when budgets are tight.  The result for me has been a marginal income and very few "benefits" as the world describes them.

But for me personally, the benefits have been awesome, even though in our culture they aren't often recognized.  I am not a greatly talented musician.  My dad said I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket.  I taught myself to play guitar so I could sing on key and not stray off from the correct tune.  I worked hard to gain the skills that came naturally to many of my friends and relatives.  All my life I'd wanted to learn to play piano, and I finally got to take formal lessons after age 30. 

I was completely surprised when my piano teacher, Kaye, urged me to teach some beginning piano students she couldn't fit into her schedule.  She told me I didn't have to be a virtuoso to teach, that it was a different set of skills, and she saw them in me.  What a wonderful door she opened for me!

Here I am 30 years later, still teaching and enjoying the interaction with each and every student.  I love the opportunity to focus on each one's particular interests and learning styles.  They are all unique.  I also enjoy the relationships that are built as I share my love of music with them. 

I have been blessed to have touched so many young lives--I lost count at 300.  But the biggest blessing has been to be touched by them.  I am still in touch with some of my former students via social media (It's not all bad.)  They knew me when they were children, and now some of them are married and having children of their own.  Some of them are even music teachers who can now play much better than I do. 

I'm touched and humbled to have been given this opportunity to teach.  Now I see that it was a calling from God, a ministry he had planned for me.  What natural talents I lacked, he provided, in order that he might have the glory, not me.

A meaningful life?  Perhaps not in the eyes of the world.  But it has been precious, indeed!