Mental Illness as a Musician, Part 2

Today I met with a mentor of mine from my formative years as a musician, and like normal, we started to catch up.  One of the main takeaways I had was that, as a society, we focus too much on what we don’t have, what the next big thing is, and how things could be.  We lose a sense of perspective in doing this.  This is a mental illness that affects our whole society, but is especially harmful to those already dealing with personal mental illness.  So, I would like to discuss this societal impulse to want what we don’t have, instead of appreciating what we do have, because it affects all of us personally.

Our society is built on the concept that all of us can rise in social status.  This is a great idea, that those who are marginalized can be made equal to those who have the upper hand.  Yet, somehow along the way, we have perverted this idea by turning it into a concept of money.  We do genuinely wish to uplift the marginalized, but at the same time we turn that into a frenzy to gain wealth and social power.  As it stands now, even uplifting the marginalized has become a brand that is marketed to us (so we can spend even more money!)

We need to stop striving for the next thing when that next thing destroys our sense of being, our sense of self, our compassion for others.  We need to stop climbing the ladder of material wealth when it turns us into social combatants, makes us abandon our personal morals, and makes us continue to subjugate others to our dominance.

Being a successful musician is, in many ways, a business.  It is a cut-throat industry because there are so many artists and so few opportunities, especially with limited funding and revenue sources.  So, we always have to be looking for the next thing as a means of survival.  This can poison us, as we cannot stop for long before the rent check needs to be paid.

But, I do not mean to imply that we need to be Buddhist monks, and that being a working musician is bad.  I do not mean to imply that money is an inherently bad thing, or that our society is depraved.  But, I wish to expose certain qualities of our lives, especially as musicians, so that I can come to this conclusion:

We need to continue to strive to make our lives better.  That means allowing everyone to achieve what they desire, including their financial goals.  However, we need to not be slaves to our money.  We need to stop and appreciate what we have, even as we jump through the next proverbial hoop.  In all, balance is key.

We can, and will, achieve our goals with persistence and a lot of luck.  Some of us will go farther than others, sometimes because of their starting position, sometimes because of their hard work, but most commonly a combination of both.  There will always be more problems than solutions, but if we stop to observe the moment and appreciate where we are, life will become a bit more bearable.  There is no right answer, but gratitude and balance are a good start.

Comments?  Thoughts?  Let me know.



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