First Person: Politics--Why Bother?

by Harry Brill
Tuesday June 01, 2010 - 11:43:00 AM

I love music. I play the saxophone, and recently I have been teaching myself how to play the clarinet. Despite some similarities, I find learning the clarinet somewhat difficult. Among my problems is making a smooth transition from lower to higher notes. This has taken a considerable amount of time, concentration, and very repetitive practice Leaping from below middle C to high C without screeching is a challenge. But it is very important to me to play gracefully and musically. 

You might be wondering, if you got this far, why I'm babbling about this. An obvious question is whether I'm being too self-indulgent. No, I don't believe I am. Please read on. I know that many individuals and families are experiencing far more serious problems than how to reach the high notes. Working people are losing their jobs, poverty is on the increase, foreclosure rates are high, families are under considerable stress, the environment is killing people every day, many millions who are sick cannot afford health care.. Then, of course, there are the killing fields in Afghanistan and Iraq. And nor do nonhuman animals escape suffering and destruction. What a mess. Like many other activists, who are generally empathetic people, this obsessed clarinet player is also deeply troubled about these issues. The widespread suffering is very, very painful to virtually all of us. Yet I, as well as many of you, continue to be involved politically, doing with others whatever I can. 

I have asked myself the question of whether there is any underlying principle that has propelled me over the many decades that I have been active, despite the frustrations, obstacles, and disappointments. Yes indeed. I think there is. The answer is implied in my musical involvement. Metaphorically speaking, I would like us to live in a society in which a major concern of people everywhere is similar to mine at the moment, to gracefully reach the high notes on their instrument. In other words, during our very short life span people deserve to experience the joy of living. I would like to believe that struggling for a better life for all, ranging from our own families to strangers we have never met, will move us closer to achieving the peace of mind and the joy that the human race is entitled to. Yes, that's why the object of our efforts cannot be only ourselves. Still, those who are more fortunately situated should feel free to enjoy life while you are helping others to enjoy it too.  

Harry Brill
150 San Carlos Avenue
El Cerrito, Ca. 9453