responsibility to humanity

I recently told someone that I believe pharmaceutical companies deserve to profit from new drugs they develop.  I think research is undervalued, and people who discover and/or create something new should be rewarded for their contribution to humanity.  I have personally benefited from pharmaceutical interventions, and I’m grateful to the companies to did all of that expensive research to come up with the drugs that helped me.

I’m grateful.  I appreciate (by both the American and British definitions of that word) the original work that went into the development of those drugs.  The final product was of value to me, so I’m willing to exchange money in return for what they provide.

However.

I want to believe that the individuals who do that research, who run those companies, feel about their work the way I feel about my work: that the only reason to do any work in the world is for the benefit of humanity.  I want to believe that someone who runs a company that makes billions of dollars every year will not just feel obliged, but will want to give back to the world, so that people who are unable to give much money can benefit from their work as much as those of us who have the capacity to pay what it is worth.

I’m a conductor.  I don’t make anything useful.  I don’t save lives or feed the hungry.  I’m an artist.  I provide a service, sort of, but it’s not one that puts roofs over peoples’ heads or ensures clean water in the developing world.  The risks I take are personal, philosophical ones–which aren’t risks at all, compared to the risks taken by guys who fill potholes on highways.  We need those guys.  I’m grateful to those guys.  I’m content to pay taxes so that the government can pay them to do it.  They do it to profit from it, to take care of their families; but, I hope they also feel good that they make our lives better.

A conductor has a responsibility to humanity, as do all members of the human race, to use their work to benefit others.  Maslow’s heirarchy tells us that, once food and shelter are provided, human beings have a need to express, create, and connect with others.  Conductor’s don’t address the essential necessities at the bottom of the pyramid, and frankly sometimes I have some guilt about that.  People are starving, but I make music!  Still, we do provide access to the top of the pyramid.  And even people who are just barely making ends meet will benefit from an opportunity to sing with others, or to hear great music being made.  Struggling to survive can sap your spirit, but art is nourishment that can refresh your humanity.  I hope that my work does that for someone someday.

I think people need to take care of one another.  I think that’s the only reason any human beings are here on this planet, and that no matter what occupies our time, we all have the same purpose.  Conductors need to provide an environment of physical and emotional safety and support for their ensemble members, so that they feel free to make expressive music that touches audiences, so that the members of both the ensemble and the audience benefit from the uplifting, enlightening experience of great art.

My immersion in art makes me want to share my gifts with others; it has made me a more complete human being and inspired me to seek my fullest humane potential.  I hope that others feel the same way.  I suspect that if everyone got to experience art the way I do, they would have the same reaction I have had.  So I aim to bring my art to as many people as will let me.

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