I try not to judge things without first giving them the benefit of the doubt and all that. By remembering what we first see is often not the whole story, I have been blessed to know some very wonderful people who present a different exterior than interior. And yet, it is easy to judge. Sometimes we judge based on our previous experience with that entity or with a larger concept we attach to that entity. This is human nature and I am just as likely to go down this flawed path as any other.
In the forty-some years we’ve been listening to the evolution of rap music, I have to admit to a certain ease of judgement on my part. Not since dancing to Tone Loc’s “Funky Cold Medina” have I really found much to appreciate with the body of music labeled “rap”. However, I was brought up short against my judgmental nature last night with a rap song I came across. In fact, it isn’t even solely “rap” music but rather a member of a very complicated designation including both “rap” and “hip-hop” and whose definitions change depending on the source. However, I assumed “rap” and decided up front it wasn’t going to be something I liked.
And then I listened, although to be honest my ears are old, so reading the lyrics helped me out. Aesop Rock’s No Regrets is worth a listen.
I appreciate this song. It tells a beautiful story and like the writer explains, it is a story stripped of the usual suspects. Instead of romanticizing, sexualizing, or trivializing the female character, Aesop Rock simply tells a beautiful story that speaks volumes. Why do we find it so odd when an individual is happy to live his/her life by self-held terms? Why do we find it so odd when the individual doesn’t embrace what we hold “good” or “normal”? If our aim is to be self-actualized and to be unique in our own ways, why do we want so much for others to conform? Yes, a level of homogeneity is good for the group. But without our own peccadilloes, our species is sure to flounder. This child-turned-woman lived her life by her own ideals, choosing to do today rather than dream of tomorrow. She found her life full of what she wanted it filled with. And others found that odd.
How many times do we judge a life–whether in a book, movie, or real life–as being lacking? We wax poetically about the need to be an individual. And even more telling of American culture, we tell our children to dream of something bigger than what is held today. But is that really the point of this life? To continually look out there for something to achieve rather than simply doing today what makes us happy?
I do believe setting goals and aspiring toward those goals is good but then that belief compliments my personality. I have a proverbial bucket list and have been making check marks. So I am not saying don’t have dreams. But like Aesop Rock, I have to ponder the difference of the psyche between the individual always dreaming of something bigger, better, and different instead of making where they are today what they want.
There is an element of dissatisfaction I see in so many of my fellow persons, a feeling of failure that so many hold, as if their lives somehow don’t matter because they didn’t manage to grab the golden ring. But what if the golden ring was simply the proverbial icing on the cake? The icing may be tasty and sweet but lacks real substance. Shouldn’t the cake be what truly pleases the palette? Wouldn’t that be far more satisfying? I think so.
I wonder what is the sub-text of my conversations with my children. Have I planted in them the seed of being happy or of striving for the unattainable? Or have I shown them that dreaming, goal setting, and aspiring, is a process that doesn’t need to negate the everyday, the here and the now?
Have I taught them to judge their lives fairly? Or have I taught them that the words and music of their lives is static?
I’m not sure. But I am sure that I hope they live their lives with no regrets.