My teacher offered us a comparison observation. He asked us why most musicians continue to be grossly underpaid while other professionals, such as news anchors, receive huge sums of money to do what they do. He seemed frustrated at the fact that someone could spend a year putting hard work and dedication into an album filled with beautiful music and not make a dime compared to what someone might earn for five minutes of reading a teleprompter. Mind you, I know that every profession takes certain skill and dedication, but for the sake of discussion the comparison made complete sense. I listened to the answers of several students sharing the same frustration, but all I could think about was how much I didn’t care what those TV personalities got paid. I thought about all the people who must be receiving huge amounts to do a whole lot of nothing, assuming it would spring some kind of anger in me. Instead, all I felt was indifference.
I realized we often associate people’s monetary value with their actual value as human beings. For centuries we have lived in a society where one person is wealthier than the other. But in what? In money? That printed piece of paper for which we cut down millions of trees to trade for things we want? How really silly it all seems. I often find myself handing strangers money for something and thinking, “What am I doing?” We have created a world where someone’s worth is based on how many things they own or how much money they make instead of valuing the person for who they are and what they do. Many people get paid a lot of money to do bad things, and many people get nothing to do very good and inspiring things. All I have to ask myself is what aspect of those two scenarios is more important?
I see value in things that are not capable of being thrown away or destroyed. As I have learned studying the words of the Brahmins – a special group in Hinduism – material things are perishable, and yet our society puts a higher value on them than the imperishable spirits of love, kindness, devotion, creativity, and inspiration. I see value in people who do things to affect the world outwardly with no expectation for any kind of reward. I see others who do things only wanting the positive affects to come back to themselves. There are people who inspire others to reap the benefit, and there are people who simply wish to capture back and hoard what they have given.
Music is and has been the driving force of so many good things in this world. Music speaks for and inspires change. It moves people to feel things that affect them physically. It heals and cures more than any kind of medication can. I can only hope that music will continue to remain a thing of imperishable value. Unfortunately, I am afraid we may be at a point in our world where music needs to be brought back to that special place where it is created as a source of inspiration and not as just a way to make money. We have to listen and really listen. That is the only way we will understand the value of what we are hearing.
I see a broken system in our society. I see a system founded on a paper bill not even a centimeter thick. We cheat and lie and murder for a small piece of paper not realizing that we cannot take that wealth with us when we die. I feel as though some forget that we all die. One day we will leave this world and nothing we own will go with us. Those who are wealthy in money but poor in humility, kindness, beauty, and creation will leave behind only that paper bill and a name that gets lost in time. But those who are rich in spirit and create things of true value will leave behind inspiration and influence that will last generations. I will never believe my value lies in how much money I make. My value will always be in what I create and whom I inspire through my music in this short lifetime of mine.
Man vyi. “Grouville Hoard”. Wikimedia, 25 October 2016, https://commons.wikimedia.org.