Sunday, May 30, 2010
The Five Lambs: An Essay on the Stages of Sacrifice in Adulthood
Rain. The day of the Regina Cathedral Arts Festival seemed not meant to be clement. On this particular wet day the foot traffic at the festival was a colubrine of umbrellas winding among the myriad of merchants huddled in their booths, selling photos, fedora hats, leather belts, loaves of bread, delicious poutine, and giant cookies. Practically anything could be purchased along this midway of consumer opportunity.
My son, Baron, and I were there to perform, he with his cajon and I, with my banjitar. It was amidst this ruck of pedestrians that we hoped to somehow stand out, make an impression so to speak. While packing our standard of unusual instruments, the cajon and banjitar, we had originally planned to be attired in crisp and white long-sleeved shirts, wearing Sinatra and Martin type derby hats. However, the rain and the lower temperatures reduced our costumes to plain but comfortable rain gear and toques. Not surprisingly so, all the predictable passers by were cordial, some commenting on our instruments, some taking snapshots, and lots tossing coins into our busk pot. (Reflecting on this, I am thinking most of those participating in that festive parade were prone to take pity on the wet and chilled buskers -- tossing alms to those so disparate.)
The very first person to greet us on the street that day was our kappellmeister, Jaime, who dressed the part in her punk-haired do, sixties dress, and yum yum yellow cowboy boots.
I bought them in Toronto, she answered when I asked.
And this uber-congenial busking coordinator offered us the most welcome of greetings:
You guys okay? Can I get you anything? You guys look great! We are so glad you came!
Plodding our way through the thickening crowd on the way to our assigned station we passed other buskers, all of whom took the time to address us. (In Buskerland it is an unwritten rule of pseudo-professional etiquette to give gesture to one another.)
One of these buskers was the Dylanesque, Ben.
Would you please jam with me, he asked.
And could you stay in the minor chords, he added.
We obliged him for few tunes until Ben decided that my banjitar was overpowering his excellent pipes. Even so, Baron stayed with him for a couple more songs and then we moved on. Next we passed by two teenage girls on saxophones, both of them giving us a wave while they played. And we passed several seasoned looking buskers who just nodded as they kept strumming their guitars.
Arriving at our prescribed spot, marked by a painted green circle, we discovered we'd be sharing the intersection with an eight year old drummer who proved to be a very noisy neighbor. He rat-a-tat-tatted and boom-ba-boom-boomed us for the entire scheduled hour, innocently waving and smiling at us the whole time.
At the top of the next hour we were replaced by a very little girl, five years old perhaps, arriving with her violin and her mother. Clearly, she was experiencing the baptism-of-fire, sobbing in the drizzle, her hair stringy and wet from the rain, her chin to her chest in a pout, and her violin and bow dangling like a mistreated rag doll, clutched in one hand at her side, the other hand hanging over her eyes.
She thought this was going to be fun. She said she was going to have fun. This was until we got here. I'll be glad when this stage is over! stated her mother.
The sacrifices we make for our kids, I thought to myself.
Over the course of our lives there are masses of sacrifices to be made, and for that mother to be standing in the rain in support of her sobbing child was just one example of the many yet to come for her. This mother happened to mention this particular instance as being a stage, and in this regard she is not alone. Erik Erikson, Mike Steinhauer, and Lawrence Kohlberg are among a hundred practicing professionals who have expounded their theories on the stages in our lives.
Erikson proposed there were eight stages in our psychosocial development: Hope, Will, Purpose, Competence, Fidelity, Love, Care, and Wisdom. Steinhauer presented that there were seven, as expressed in the Cree tradition: Happy Times, Confusion, Searching Truth, Decisions, Planting Time, and Teaching. And Kohlberg suggested we develop morally in six stages: Reward and Punishment, Exchange, Good Boy/Good Girl, Law and Order, Social Contract, and Universal Principles.
It is high time that I explicate my own theory of stages in our lives, though it will be very much restricted by the confines of my very Western and middle-class culture of conventions. I advance that in our adult lives we pass through the five stages of sacrificial development: Luxury, Revenue, Conviviality, Freedom, and Diversion.
Our first sacrifice as an adult is that of luxury. We forego luxury in return for excitement and independence and venture. We leave the creature comforts of home and mommy and daddy and seek adventure, sharing space and rent for some cheap apartment away from the house from which we were brought up. Though we attempt to create a new physical space between ourselves and our parents, we consciously keep our support space within reaching distance. You know, party party party in young adult squalor until roast beef dinner at home with the rents on Sunday.
As young adults we have jobs. Good jobs. But we are not making near enough dollars to buy stuff such as a new car, a new sound system, new furnishings, or new anything. Common sense prevails and we decide we would rather be broke and studying than be broke and working. Sacrificing revenue for research, according to even the most stringent of economists, is the only way to go. There comes a time when we strive to get from benighted to pundit, abandoning our steady source of income from our service industry job, to study at some post-secondary institute, or take on an apprenticeship situation. With a little parent support and part-time employment in the academic off season, combined with the available student loans programs, we take the plunge into enlightenment.
No more wasted weekends (pun intended). No more one night stands. No more social butter/bar fly silliness. It is time to seek a real mate. It is time to devote one's life to someone other than thyself. It is time to procreate and continue the species. It is time to enter cohabitation with someone who shares our interests, values, aspirations, and most importantly, bring home to mother.
During this sacrificial stage there is no more foppery. No more individual liberties. It is time to sacrifice our freedom for our offspring. Once the children have arrived we spend our time fretting over whether or not to send them to daycare, and then whether to put them into French Immersion or not in public or private school. Instead of playing our sport, we now coach their sports. We squander our hard earned cash to keep our social savvy kids in the latest fashions. We taxi our children to all of their formal and informal events. And then when sweet sixteen finally arrives, we strain the family budget to buy that third vehicle so our teenager looks good even on the road.
And when we are weary from all these previous sacrifices, it is time, alas to make our retirement plans! To reside in a Rocky Mountain resort and be one of those ski bum ambassadors who welcome the newcomers to the hill, or to be forever swinging in the heavens of the back nine, under the desert warmth of an Arizona sun. Surely all of this recreational activity shall keep our aged minds off our inevitable closer-to-the-end-of-the-dock demise. Not so. We shall relinquish our last dreams, these imaginary diversions for the continued accommodation of our children. We will move to the same locale of our kids, so we can babysit our grandkids, and help out in any other regard so requested by our ever needy children.
Our lives and our fantasies ought to be enjoyed, though in all of our lives we shall have moments of downpour, those periodic douses of rain. Sometimes throughout our existence we must sacrifice comfort for cold and dryness for damp; and oftentimes we will even manage to sacrifice happiness for misery.
It is nearing the end of our lives, the time when all of our lambs have been sacrificed, measuring our journey in the traditional linear fashion, that we will likely have moved ourselves from being selfish to being selfless, at least in a loving and general regard. Having our final years being filled with as much fun as possible ought to be recognized as a well earned entitlement.
Baron and I ended our day at the street festival with over forty dollars in our busk pot, despite having to dodge out of the rain several times to keep our instruments dry. As for our busking being a purely mercenary and selfish adventure, I'd say that on that day we most certainly sacrificed ourselves for the common good, the entertainment of others.
I have but a few lambs left for sacrifice in my life and my son still has many. In the meantime, until those beasts are slaughtered at the altar, I can state unequivocally that, as for me and my son, we shall serve ourselves; and as for busking, we do it for the love (of money).