The change is in the air – along with the threat of snow.
Few things last in this life time more than for a few years these days or maybe never lasted. I had pictures of the world in my head from the post World War II era growing up of great hope and promise. I have pictures of my family moving into the old house on the hill, all of them thinking that the world had become renewed and that the boundless future lay ahead.
Perhaps it did, for the brick layers, and those who build their future piece by piece – a conservative idea I didn’t always believe when I grew up in the 1960s and assumed that we could depend on Big Brother to protect us, to provide us with all those necessities the greedy of the Post Civil War denied – But godfathers and robber barons simply change their tactics and operate behind the scenes, pulling levers like The Wizard of Oz, and deluding the masses of people into believing that the future is bright when it is only bright for those who rise to the top of the froth.
But capitalism, criminal or legal, elevates very few, and as Thoreau pointed out, most of us live our lives in quiet desperation, either accepting our fate as cogs in the wheel of this machine or defying it, and becoming frustrated by it, and eventually crushed by it.
Some enjoy the benefits of power for a while, and then fall out of favor, or find their no longer needed, and get cast aside, desperate to find some new venue upon which to start their climb (or slide – depending on your point of view) into a new pyramid of power.
This isn’t just political or criminal, it is life.
I’ve been through so many changes of jobs in my life that I have seen the petty power structures rise and fall, mini-Roman Empires to which the small cling to for sense of worth.
Somehow in my life, I have been immune to these – either because I had positioned myself rightly as indispensable or because of sheer luck.
As a baker in the 1980s and early 1990, I saw my shop sold a dozen times – each time watching those who grooved closest to the new boss, building a relationship with the new boss, only to lose status as the next boss sought out his own cronies he or she could trust.
I was always above the fray, because people didn’t mess with quality bakers back then. these days, machines have made me history, and I am referred to as “a stick man” making me realize just how Mark Twain felt after training to become a river boat pilot only to have the end of the Civil War destroy that industry. Something similar is happening in the news industry in my time but it matters less to me because I am at the end of a career not at the beginning as Twain was back then.
But the concept remains the same.
Survival depends upon personal power, ability to transcend change – not just dependability. (The most essential cog can be replaced in any machine I learned long ago.) But somehow, you need to believe in yourself to such an extent that your power does not rely on some higher power (expect perhaps the highest power) and that what you do matters more than what recognition you get.
This is a long view because of the ups and downs that it entails and the eventual belief that in the end what you do will make a difference and bring about what you want.
The art world is littered with people who gave up their dreams, settling for less or moving onto something else because the road to what they was as success got too hard.
I remember a friend who came to visit me in the Garfield Dunkin donuts commenting that I was better that what she saw, that I ought to have another more respectable job.
I quoted Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty,” and said, “Try not to confuse what you do with what you do to survive.”
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, these are the same at the same time. Most often they aren’t. But at every moment of my life, what I do to survive matters as much as what I aspire to do. And although sometimes, this is a huge struggle, it is the only way I can survive the ups and downs and changes of power that go on around me. I work for a boss, but deep down inside me, I work hard at whatever I am doing because it is the only real way to survive.