For the past two months, I have taken a brief "vacation" from worry: about our country, our environment, and our culture.
Instead, I have focused on the enthusiastic activity of young musicians, including my 13 year old grand-niece, a young violinist of promise. She came for her annual visit to participate in an intensive program of chamber music activities with Prelude Chamber Music, Inc.This year, she was the leader of her quintet and concert mistress of the advanced orchestra.
To see the musical development of my niece and other young people as they practice their skills, learn music theory, as well as all the other disciplines associated with playing their instruments reminded me, once again, that our hope resides in our children.
They are idealistic, rejecting war and violence as solutions to disagreements. My niece shows, not mere tolerance for people who are different from her, but seems not to imagine anything unusual about human variety, delighting in the cultures of other peoples.
Her brain is a sponge which absorbs science, literature, music, art in the context of our times, while maintaining optimistic, refreshing insights.
She is in love with Life, and she is determined that the planet will survive with its beautiful animals, plants, electric storms, and exotic peoples.
She is teaching me that I must not succumb to collective paranoia. She hasn't said as such, but I suspect she would find "Big Brother" to be no less of a nincompoop then those who are afraid of "it."
She was born more than a year before the September catastrophe of 2001, and was too young to know or see any of the horrible images of that time. She noticed a book on my shelves, commemorating the World Trade Center as it was. She had heard of it, but didn't know what had happened. When we looked at the World Trade Center in its days of glory contrasted with pictures of the aftermath of the destruction, she was silent, perhaps, wondering what could have caused such an event. She has nothing, thank goodness, in her beautiful life to compare it with.
Next year, she will be confronted with even greater horrors when she studies the Holocaust. I wish she didn't have to know about any of these terrible, evil acts of violence. Her question to me was, why do people do these things to each other? She is without the ability to hate. She cannot comprehend it.
All children could be this pure in spirit if their elders were sensitive to the profound effects of media, violence in sports, hysterical popular music with its vapid lyrics, and the sensationalistic, gratuitous action sequences in contemporary film. No parent should allow his child to watch TV or see movies which are inappropriate.
My niece has grown up without exposure to what most young people see. She is a straight "A" student at a very demanding private school whose curriculum is sophisticated, well-rounded, and loving. It is a Quaker School, and as such, instills values which make good citizens of its graduates. All of its students are admitted to the major universities in this country. And they will graduate into positions of influence as adults.
Because these graduates have not only received a thoughtful education, they have also learned to think of others through projects which all must participate in every year, throughout the year. They grow , harvest, and deliver, in person, food to the homes of poor people in their city, for instance. A special chorus sings to terminally ill patients; a homesick student from India is serenaded at her locker on her birthday. The emphasis is on noticing what other people are experiencing. They are learning empathy.
I believe her generation will be the one to reject the procrastinating excuses of ours by cleaning up the environment, righting social wrongs, restoring democracy and trust in the power of government to do good for its citizens. And, I believe they will make beautiful art and music while doing so. They will write their own stories of hope: hope fulfilled.
All will be well.