Hard Times Come Again No More: Part I

Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears,While we all sup sorrow with the poor.There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears,Oh Hard times come again no more.

Stephen Foster’s haunting tune about better times coming soon seems appropriate for this environment of economic woes.  In 1855, Foster wrote this song the year both his parents and a close friend died.  With a heavy heart and mounting debt, I feel his words put into perspective what the human mind is capable of overcoming.  Here’s a gorgeous version of the song sung by James Taylor: Hard Times Come Again No More

I was doing some thinking over the past couple of years about the impact of the recession on the arts as well as the simple fact of me being a student.  I’m sure you’d be hard pressed to find someone who said that the arts came out well.  As I look at the bleak job forecast in my own field, I know and feel the weight of cut budgets and hiring freezes as I look for full time jobs.  I can’t really speak for everyone, but I hope others have shared some of my experiences in similar situations.

However, two things happened over the course of the whole situation that have had a great effect on me: I came to appreciate what I had a whole lot more, and I starting to really look into what my local area had to offer arts wise.

Over the past couple years, people stopped buying things, which, in turn, made the economy worse.  As a result, we as a nation, though, started to really take notice of our excessive lifestyle.  People started cutting back and doing more with less. Although I haven’t really bought fully into the lifestyle, I started reading things like “The 100 Thing Challenge”.  Basically, this guy made a goal of reducing the number of personal items that he keeps.  Now, anyone who’s seen our house can attest that I haven’t done this yet, but it certainly made me think about what I really needed vs. what I wanted.  But what do I need?  I have boxes and boxes of stuff that’s sole purpose is to look at…and it’s in boxes…in a closet, serving no purpose.  But of course, rationality goes right out the door when you talk about throwing/giving it away.  Each has a story and becomes a part of me (and some have said that I have become my stuff).  So I’m still struggling with this part.

I also recently spoke with Mark Dillon, a friend of mine, about his experience hiking the Appalachian Trail a few years back.  One of the things he told me was upon completion of the trail (over several months time) one of the hardest things to do was going back to so much stuff in the real world! I found myself asking myself, “If he can live for months on what he can carry around, then why do I have so much stuff I never use?” For example, pots and pans: if I just washed them after each use, the most I would ever need is four and that’s if I used every burner on the stove!  Although I have gotten rid of some things, the biggest thing to come of this was to appreciate what I’ve got.  I’ll work on reducing my stuff in due time.

So how does this relate to the arts?  Good question: A good example of this is my new found love of old time music that I talked about in my last post.  By just talking to family and friends, I have found that some unique and interesting instruments are owned by friends and family and they were willing to let me borrow them.  To my amazement, we have acquired or borrowed (or will borrow in the future) two fiddles (violins), a tenor banjo, a regular banjo, a banjo ukulele, button accordion, an old vintage drum set, random small percussion instruments, a pump organ, a Gibson guitar, and a couple mountain dulcimers.  Now I realize that I just talked about having too much stuff, but the important thing is that these instruments are getting a new life and we haven’t had to pay to use any of them.  So instead of buying any of these new, we found creative musical outlets that would otherwise be much too expensive to buy on our own.  Now I just need to learn to play them 🙂

Now I realize that this may not be the case for some of you, but I challenge you to take stock of what you already own and use your already creative minds to both create art and not break the bank.  I promise that you will be rewarded with the results!

…Continued on Part II

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