Balancing, as told by a classical music composer

If you see someone on the street that requires help – perhaps that person displays some sort of behaviour that draws your attention, or is homeless – would you stop to help? There are some people who think this: why would you stop though? Why would you set aside all your evening downtime after a long day at work simply to take on more responsibilities by getting involved in a situation that doesn’t directly concern you? These are not even work responsibilities that would benefit you financially or help you career wise, these are areas where someone might think it is a matter for social services to deal with.

Fair enough – you can imagine why they would consider that thought, wouldn’t you? After all, you pay taxes to the government to cover these sort of social responsibilities that, if accounted for individually, would be to cumbersome to manage. If all that you were liable for was divided up and individually tabulated – for example, the amount to pay to binmen for clearing away your rubbish, the amount due to police for policing – the whole process would be too overwhelming, both for you and for the person due. The bin man would have to have separate invoices and accounts for all the houses on the street!

There are many that feel that because they pay taxes, and under these taxes there is the provision for social services, then whenever there is a social situation that needs addressing it is the job of the council or local authority to deal with it. For example, when you see homeless people sitting under railway bridges, you may offer them some loose change from time to time, but feel that, long-term, it is the job of the local authority to find housing, short-term accommodation or some other form of alleviation for those in need.

The problem we have is that our inner being, the compassionate one, feels we need to offer assistance, yet our head tells us we have to steel ourselves from helping, because otherwise we would have to keep offering financial assistance, get too involved, take responsibility on behalf of the local council – and all other reasons. In this way we breed a sort of social disconnect, which can cause mental problems in the long term.

How can we bridge these two parts? We can take a leaf out of the book of the classical composer George Gershwin. He successfully bridged the two and in this modern day is seen as introducing jazz influences into classical music, blending the elements of one into the other, until the mix was a bit of both. And so it is with our society – every one has to find a level of equilibrium that allows you to balance social obligations with practicality. Your level may not be the same as someone else’s, but you have to find one that gives you some form of inner peace, so that when we are older and flashbacks to the past, we can live with our own history.