I was in the car a good bit this weekend, shuttling kids from various points to other various points. I was in my husband’s car, which meant I could actually use the radio. (My car radio has been broken for….awhile.) As a result of this car change, I got to listen to the TED Radio hour. I heard two pieces that were especially good: Susan Cain: The glorious complexity of being human and Hrishikesh Hirway: Finding balance through deconstructing music The first one was about the challenge of binary thinking about people, like “introverts and extroverts”, “winners and losers”, “happy people and sad people”, and that while we do have tendencies/orientations toward certain ways of being, the fact is that we are wonderfully complicated and we contain multitudes. The second piece featured the host and producer of the podcast Song Exploder (which sounds cool too), but in the interview Hirway talked about his dreams as a musician in the context of his success with the podcast interviewing other (more famous) musicians. He had the ultimate realization that his music was important because it was important to him, even if it didn’t serve the world in some greater way. It was his work interviewing other musicians who helped him understand this, because he heard them reveal their own insecurities about their work and what it might mean, or not, to others.
These two pieces together made me think of my own life, the way I see myself, the way others see me, and the art I want to be a part of (writing). It made me think of my students, who want to do the right things in the world and in their work. This desire to do right is harder than it feels like it should be sometimes, as we know we work in an imperfect world where there are sometimes unintended consequences of actions that we take with “right” reasoning.
It made me think of, among these other things, the death this week of Queen Elizabeth. The monarchy is something I don’t really understand and have never really followed. The Twitter threads, since her passing, seem to paint her as either an overwhelming winner (determined, gracious, focused on integrity, full of wit, etc) or an oppressive loser (which I know is a weird way to phrase it) where she was at best a passive symbol of colonial history and at worst, an active participant in political and social violence.
This idea of nuance and of each human containing multitudes applies to all of us, including royalty I guess. It is hard (for me at least) to know how to hold the tension point when the stage that a person occupies is so big. Teaching that, and discussing that with students, is so much harder than talking about principles of systems theory, and social welfare policy.
Poet Lesle Honore says it so much better than I can (taken from her facebook page https://www.facebook.com/leslehonorepoetry/) on September 8:
May our memory and nostalgia
Never cloud the truth
Our indoctrinated fairy tale culture
With the legacy
The transatlantic slave trade
The sun that never set
May we separate the crown
And the woman
And as we bury an era
May we never bury
Freedoms and reparations yet to be received
God Save The Queen