In last week’s post, I asked the question, Can I dance when I don’t like the music? My reply was that, with resolve and strength of will, dancing to music I don’t like is not only possible, but necessary for a joyful life. That thought does sum up my own experience, and it is valid, but only to a point. My post failed to address a key issue. I’m surprised, actually, that no one has pointed out that missing piece.
It’s all well and good to talk about dancing when there’s music, whether one loves the music or not. The only reason I have music to dance to is that I won the birth lottery. I was born to parents who wanted me, who loved me, and who sacrificed so that I would be safe, thrive on good food, and have access to competent medical care. Their selflessness meant that I had an encyclopedia at home before my school purchased one, that I taught myself to type when I was twelve, and then did the same typing exercises all over again when I was fourteen at school in Grade 9. I learned to play the piano thanks to their vision, read books that never would have shelved in the school library, and benefited from a great home environment and a chance know my extended family. So I always had music. Was it always my favorite? Of course not. But the option to dance was always there. The birth lottery paid dividends my whole life—I had a university education and a satisfying career, the chance to raise a family, contribute to my community, and travel.
What about people who don’t have music? What about people who must live in noise? Because the opposite of music is not silence. The opposite of music is noise. Many people lose the birth lottery. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times writes eloquently on the subject in "3 TV’s and No Food: Growing Up Poor in America" (and other countries like Canada by extension). These people might have to climb out of abject and cyclical poverty. They might live in neighborhoods or families that face addiction issues. They might not have money for good food or books, and they might be starved for support and a leg up. Some people do manage to dance in those environments despite the noise. They make their own music, or they blot out the noise. They have more strength of character than I could ever muster. Many, though, are swallowed up in the din.
As a winner of the birth lottery, my life moves to music. That good fortune carries obligation. At some point, in ways large or small, I must act to silence the noise for people who need music in their lives. As my mother preached to us, "From those to whom much has been given, much will be expected" (Luke 12:48). Or, as Hillary Rodham Clinton’s mother preached to her, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” (Methodist tenet). My intention to quell the noise for even a few people continues to be a work in progress.
I do, however, own that opportunity is a function of the accident of birth. Birth luck is the foundation of accomplishment; it determines whether noise or music accompanies life. If I have the choice to dance or not, then I need to pay that forward and provide some music for others.