Wagner-Die Walkure-“Leb wohl,du kunhes, herrliches Kind!”
I have studied Booker T. Washington and Dubois. Both had a case but it all depends on where you are in your life and who you are. I think Dubois is a rather tragic figure. Let us not forget he left the USA to live in Africa and became a Communist by the end of life. By many measures, Booker T. Washington was a happier and more successul figure in America as an American. Washington adapted to the world in which he lived; I think he accepted the fact that progress in racial relations would take generations. But in the mean time, Washington thought, African Americans have to take personal responsiblity for their education and training and their habits and be economically stable and successful. With economic success other opportunties would come.
My father worked in a slaughter house at night when he was in high school. To do so he had to sacrifice any social life or any sports (even though he had been a soccer star in his native land). This experience had a strong influence on his entire life. He learned to be almost completely self-sufficient and I would say socially isolated.
For example, he chose to have no friendships or social relationships with the workers at the slaughter house with the exception of some older workers who befriended him and looked after him while he slept returning home on the Manhattan to Brooklyn subway at 3AM. He was lucky in that his mother and sister fed him, shopped for any sundries he needed and washed and ironed his clothes. My father turned over HIS ENTIRE paycheck to his mother. She would give him $1.50 so he could see movies and have a small snack.
My father’s chief relaxations were reading, Saturday movies and Sunday baseball games with his father. He usually went alone to the movies. I don’t remember him ever saying he went to baseball games with his friends or alone. He had a few American acquaintences but really he had no intimate friends. This was big change from his early life when he was a popular athlete and had many many close friends. Sadly, he was separated by emigration from most of his close friends and many were killed in WW2. My father’s early life from age 12 was focused almost completely on working to support his family as his father had lost his job in 1932 and did not go back to work until 1937. My father continued his industriousness after high school and studied at Brooklyn College where he graduated in 1937. Soon the war came and but my father continued in his pattern of perseverence. He began miltary service as a E-1 private and worked his way up to corporal and finally an NCO in the MPs. From there he went to OCS and became a 2nd Lt. He went overseas in 1943-46 and rose in rank to 1st Lt. After the war he went to NYU on the GI bill and had a career in business in which he was reasonably successful in achievement a stable career. I think he could have advanced economically much more if he had sacrificed his family life and intellectual life. But he chose to focus on his private family life and his private intellectual life. Others would bar hop or play golf on business trips. My father would read Homer in the original Greek in his hotel rooms in Atlanta. His chief hobbies were opera (listening and collected historial recordings), literature, languages, classic movies, plays and baseball. I think my father was somewhat lonely except for the close friendship with my mother and her friends. In someways he lived the solitary isolated life of a prisoner but he was never bored and I think he was happiest when he escaped into his music and books. We are shaped by our environment and its challenges but we also are shaped by individual choices in how we respond to those challenges. I never once saw my father inebriated. He drank beer and wine but not spirits. He believed in moderation. He smoked cigarettes for about 25 years but quit in his 40s and smoked only cigars. He loved smoking cigars. But on the advice of his doctor he quit cigars also in his 50s. He lived a reasonably long life and a very healthy one until he was 87 when he fell and broke his hip. Thereafter he declined physically but remained mentally sharp until the very end. His very last words were “I think this is the best breakfast I have ever had.” He suffered a stroke and lingered a few days in the hospital. He was listening to Wotan’s farewell (Lieb wohl) in the hospital. I was not present but my sister said he reacted and there were tears falling from his eyes. My father’s last lesson to me is that there is such a thing a a Good Death. If one can say goodbye to one’s loved ones and die without pain and suffering in bed surrounded by loved ones and beautiful music then one can say one has experieced a Good Death.
“Perhaps Washington and DuBois were both right — whether someone chooses education or commerce, the important thing is that there is opportunity in both for anyone willing to put in the hard work to find it.” It all depends on the situation one finds oneself in. As a man who was in his youth a soldier and construction worker paid by the piece and later as a teacher. I found necessity meant I had to get a reasonably paying job immediately. So there are times you have to cast the bucket down where you are. Once I had some savings and had established my credit and had a free and clear car I felt the confidence to make gradual career changes. I took a pay cut to work at a bank. I remember I earned only $7.23 an hour! But the bank meant REGULAR HOURS and FLEX TIME and was across the street from a university. I then spent five years at the bank and had as a goal going back to school for an advanced degree. At first I thought I would get an MBA but then I realized I would prefer something where I could use my love of languages, literature and history. So I got a 5th Year Certification as a k-12 teacher. I was certified in English, Spanish and Social Studies. I thought my multiple certificaiton would make my job transition easier but in fact I had almost no job offers. So I considered job offers ANYWHERE -Alaska, Texas, California and even Australia. And by being open to emigration to a new location I was able to get a steady job. It is all about CHALLENGES and RESPONSE. I could not have made the change WITHOUT having sacrificed and made an investment in my PAPER CREDENTIALS. Of course I could have expanded my paper credentials even more but I had to consider the economic return on investment.
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