12 July 2014

A Hard Week

[Robert] Schumann went to Vienna in 1838, intending to take up his residence permanently in the city where Beethoven, Mozart, Hayden, and many other great musicians had lived. ...he hoped above all to improve his artistic and financial situation to overcome Friedrich Wieck's opposition to his marriage with [Wieck's daughter] Clara.
Clara shared [his] ideas and approved of the plan which, however, proved unsuccessful. The Viennese people did not understand his music and innumerable obstacles arose...  "I shall never get along with these people," he wrote despairingly to his friend... He complained that it was impossible to find among the local musicians one who was "a whole man, capable of understanding Shakespeare and Jean Paul Richter".
Harold Bauer, Editor. 
From the Preface to the Schirmer's Library of Musial Classics, Vol. 99 (copyright 1946) edition of Robert Schumann's 'Faschingsschwank aus Wien' (Op. 26)

It was the line "I shall never get along with these people" that jumped out at me and landed with a painful empathetic 'click' this morning. Yes, I might write the same words (or similar words; "I shall never understand these people" might be a more accurate expression) today to a friend, nearly two centuries later about the people in this place 5,000 miles west of Vienna.

Reflection on the events of July 2014, here at the near-midpoint, is both heartrending and confusing when I view them as personal affronts. Among the more provocative occurrences:
  • Piano students who, after paying a full month's tuition at their first lesson each month, forget to appear for successive lessons unless I call them by telephone a few minutes past their scheduled time.
  • Church-going "true believers" who cancel Sunday worship when the majority of their members are away visiting Disney World.
  • Neighbors who hire someone to mow only the part of their yard they can see from the windows of their house, leaving un-mowed the 400+-foot strip at the rear of their property that faces my house.
  • City leaders who schedule Fourth of July fireworks for 3 July because the pyro-technician's fee is lower.
  • Parents of a piano student who do not pay tuition at the first lesson, respond to multiple inquiries with unbroken silence but deliver their daughter (albeit 5 minutes late) for her next lesson--again without a tuition payment. When asked about it at the end of the lesson, Father says "I'm just the chauffeur but I'll tell G____ to call you." (Note:  Three days later still no call; still no payment.)
  • "Black" community members who complain in private about the appropriation of "black history" by "white" community members but make no mention of their disapproval during formal meetings and initiate no alternative project to reclaim "their" history.
  • City leaders who respond manually to email with "I'm not at home right now. I'll be out of town for another week. Please send this email to me again when I return."
In reality, none of this behavior is baffling or heartbreaking. I get it:  people will be people.

A primary objective every time I show up here and write is to see more clearly what I'm thinking. What I know in this moment -- that I did not know when I wrote the first lines -- is that what I'm struggling with (again) is the oppressive isolation of my present situation; the day in and day out of limited or no access to people who understand me and who I understand.

With each day I remain in Mississippi, I become more adept at solitary time-passing and hungrier for community and intimacy.