Whither We Go

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Making a living. I always thought that was an odd term. “What do you do for a living?” people ask. As though what you do to make money is what you are.

Ever since I was a child, and my father took me aside to explain “the way it works,” I’ve pondered the reality of what it is that orients us to do what we do. And what does it really say about us? Are we the imagination of ourselves? Or not?

In a world where quantum mechanics determines probability at the micro-level (HERE) and spirituality or philosophy (or some might say artificial intelligence HERE) calculates the big picture, there is clearly a lot of uncertainty about. Perception being reality seems like a convenient concept on which to hang your hat in this hall of mirrors.

credit: E.S. Curtis

People don’t ask what you see, though, nor do they chase after your likely placement among parallel universes, nor (except for the Born Agains) query your inclination to deifications. What they do ask is what you do for a living. What’s your job? Where do you work?

The question we also might ask is why? Why do you work? What motivates you? What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning and gives you that sense of satisfaction or at least relief when you tuck yourself in to sleep at night? 

We need to earn money, yes. For food, clothing, shelter, transportation, insurance, healthcare, a night on the town, tickets to the ballgame, all the toys we might covet, places we might go, sights we might see beyond our neigborhood and our commute to work. Some clearly need much more than others, maybe just more, period (HERE).

We need to earn money to have the freedom to live our life in full. Freedom from want, from fear, from limitations. That’s the common answer. So, we give it up to get it, right?

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Freedom. Really a conundrum, isn’t it. Difficult to define and elusive of our best efforts to corral it. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about that subject – freedom – because it’s central to the premise I’ve been promoting in discussions about What It Was, my book and the time it describes. It’s an effort to look at the past and come to terms with what it was and what it meant. 

Maybe its just the rumination of an aging guy, but many people in the audiences my talks have attracted are drawn to that recollection. Like me, they’re looking back over their life and trying to make sense of it, to find the meaning. What’s it all about, Alphie?

Too philosophical for you? I get it. But there was something profound in that time so many of us experienced, something more than the process of coming of age that every generation claims as special, and it’s been challenging, not to say mostly enjoyable, to try to find the place to hang that hat.

credit: Annie Leibovitz

The premise of my talk is a reach for freedom in the arts and in society during the Sixties unleashed an era of staggering creativity that was particularly notable in music. The brilliant innovation of that time is still today referred to as the Classic Era of Rock Music. It changed the music business and in many ways it changed society, too.

What allowed it to happen? Where did it come from and where did it go? That’s the rub, a complex discussion without an easy answer. There’s a lot that can be said. But one thought that rises up in every consideration of the era is the resistance to consumerism that was the hallmark of the counterculture.

There was a time, brief but dazzling, when art was the priority and commerce took a back seat. It was true in many aspects of life, but especially in the arts. Most attuned to the time was music. It was the voice of the counterculture and the huge community that grew up around a lifestyle where the burgeoning consumerism of post-War America was largely rejected.

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It was a time in our history when the focus was on living, not on what you do for a living. What sort of a moment might you create, a relationship, a happening, a song or a dance or a feast for your friends. What magic could you make, even if you weren’t making money.

It was a time. Now here’s Tom with the weather.










  1. Really good writing. You’ve found a really important facet to our conundrum then and now.
    Very Much enjoyed this piece.

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