"One flew east, one flew west,
One flew over the cuckoo's nest."
I once had a running feud with an organ student that went something like this:
"Don't bother me with that counting stuff," he'd say, "until I learn the notes."
I wracked my brain for a way to convince this otherwise intelligent man that, in music, the "counting stuff" is important, too. Finally I came up with this silly illustration:
"OK," I said, "loan me your car and today I'll steer. Maybe, when I feel confident enough with the wheel, I'll learn shifting and what to do with my feet. Then, when I'm not concentrating so hard on what to push and pull, I'll start watching what else is on the road."
He got the point. Music is not just an arrangement of notes. It's rhythm, too. And no matter how music is performed, what you do physically is yet another part of the learning process. Knowing notes, rhythm and the proper foot or finger to use are the organist's counterparts to steering, braking and watching the road, all of which you must do at the same time.
Which reminds me of the current political campaign. Just as in all elections past, some voters are obsessed with the number one.
"I don't care what's happening in Iraq or anywhere else in the world," someone thunders. "I want something done in this country about the economy!"
Others block out every issue except "who's going to lower my taxes... clean up the environment... do something about my health care premiums?" Still others, sickened by the perennial "dirtiest campaign in history," cry, "I want a president I can trust!"
If only life, politics or music were that simple. If only the president of the only remaining superpower in the world could be a one-item leader. But that will never happen because it would be impossible to decide what that one item should be.
Like my driving illustration, anyone who is even mildly aware that there are other causes and other nations on our "road" knows it is virtual suicide both to ignore what's happening outside your vehicle, or beyond the borders of the country where you live.
To those who care only about domestic problems, doesn't it matter that there are still nations in the world -- besides Afghanistan and Iraq -- that are floundering in their march toward democracy or a free-market economy, and that when the defenses of hungry and disillusioned people are down they are ripe for a Hitler, a Lenin, or a Saddam Hussein?
Isn't it important that other nations -- China, Russia, and perhaps Iran -- may be planning even now not only to join the superpower ranks, but to out-superpower us?
I know times are tough for many Americans. Still, when even the poorest among us compare their economic situation with that of the rest of the world instead of with the family down the street, financial security takes on a very different meaning.
Most of the time, when we Americans talk about financial hardship we are worrying about the mortgage payment on our well-equipped home, steaks in our well-stocked freezer or maintenance on our late-model cars. In contrast, much of the world lives in crowded quarters, works primarily to exist and travels by primitive conveyance or on foot.
I don't mean to trivialize the plight of anyone in need in our own community or country. I'm just concerned that, in this election year, if we choose leaders who ignore the plight of those in greater need, shut out political rumblings beyond our shores and disregard the lessons of history, someday we won't have an election year to worry about at all.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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