No Boundaries — No Life

It has been written elsewhere that if every kid gets a ribbon then the ribbon loses its value. If all things are equal, then there are no boundaries between winning and losing, good and bad, right and wrong, forward and backward. There’s nothing but grey. You can get lost when everything is grey. You can get severely lost and not even know that you are! Some people spend their entire lives in grey.

These days, there are few boundaries in our society that seem to work. The old ways don’t hold, the new ways are still being created and the in-between moves around so much it isn’t really possible to tell what it is at any given moment. There are the folks who want to “go back” to what worked in the past because they view it as being “better” (safer) through the lens of their memory. There are folks who want to change everything as soon as possible because they  have a utopian vision. (Nothing changes that quickly unless it is through exceedingly abrupt, sometimes violent means.) In the messy transition time, leaders are those with a clear vision that is not extreme, straightforward but not rigid, encompassing of the good things from the past but hopeful enough to go forward newly without fear. Rare thing, to find this combination but not impossible.

Humans are being and always in a state of movement, as is the entire known universe. Even things which seem to be unchanged are changing, although that could be at a rate too slow for most to be able to notice. The test of time, however, is the only valid test. That which lasts a very long time, which endures, has to have value. This is particularly true in human beings.

Character is built by resistance to difficult, challenging circumstances through months and years. Those who are most to be admired have withstood tests and emerged victoriously and become better for the experience. Those who let adverse circumstances make them hard, bitter, resentful, defensive, angry or revengeful lose out in the end. Those qualities eat away at us over time from the inside out. They diminish our inner light. They make us sick. They subtract rather than add to who we are.

Honesty, integrity, truthfulness, vulnerability, openness, trust, warmth, flexibility, loyalty, gratitude, appreciation, compassion, caring, forgiveness, kindness, generosity, humility, acceptance, patience, perseverance, tolerance, nobility, graciousness, courage, remorse (for something negative you have done or said). This list is not the entire list of words that describes what we would call someone of “good character”. It used to be that people were taught about these qualities as children as part of being “good”. Not so much now. They also learned about the 7 Deadly Sins which are pride,  greed,  extravagance/ lust,  envy,  gluttony,  wrath, and sloth. In the USA we actually encourage pride, greed, and extravagance and don’t notice either sloth or gluttony. Lust and envy are useful tools in Hollywood movie scripts.

If you don’t evaluate yourself from time to time, probing to see what qualities you consider yourself to be in possession of, you might think of doing that. You might also consider what your vices are. They will show up in how you view the world and in what you do with your life on a day-to-day basis. They will also color your artistic possibilities, and that’s not good for an artist because you can’t transcend what you do not recognize. If you want to have appropriate psychological and professional boundaries you need to understand what those are. Many people don’t have clear, flexible boundaries and that causes trouble.

If you teach, you can’t afford to live in a murky grey haze. As a teachers of singing, you will make a deep impression on your students. With singing, as you teach, you are asking people to trust you, giving you something very personal, with the idea that you will treat them and their voices kindly and with wisdom. Have a good talk with yourself and be brutally honest with your self-assessment, thinking about the words in the previous paragraph. Rate yourself. Then think about how that is part of your own singing and your teaching. What enduring qualities do you bring to your art? It matters.

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