“And all that glitters is gold. Only shooting stars break the mold.” – Smash Mouth, “Rock Star”
It was during an Ithaca College Jazz Ensemble rehearsal in either 1987 or 1988….we were taking a quick breather between rehearsing a couple of charts, and someone had brought up the subject of how videos were making music much more visual, and that the quality of pop music was starting to fade into the visual background. I don’t remember what band we were referring to at the time, but I remember our director Steve Brown’s response – “Hey, you can take a piece of shit and wrap it in gold and glitter, but it’s still a piece of shit.”
Here we are, 33 years later, and those words still resonate with me. As I’ve gotten older (especially since turning 50), I find that the “gold and glitter” material things in my life mean less and less to me. I drive a pre-owned car, I wear sweatpants every day, and I just bought a used VCR online, and just ordered a replacement amplifier and CD player for my living room. Heck, the EWI that I finally purchased has been around for over 30 years! It’s not the newest hi-tech stuff, and it sure as hell does not define me in any way.
There are so many celebrities whose personalities could qualify for the “gold and glitter” theory (yes Kanye, you’re who I’m thinking of as the poster child), and I also have a number of acquaintances who give off the same aura (thankfully not the scent). As horrific as this pandemic has been, it has also leveled the playing field – as the number of lives lost continues to climb, people are showing more and more compassion, especially as communication has become so important to all of us. Material things don’t seem as relevant, as our way of life has changed significantly. I have a few friends who defined themselves by their flyer miles and hotel points – flights and hotels are somewhat like an endangered species now…bottom line, as we go day by day until we get back to a sense of “normal”, unless it’s masks and ventilators for those in need, what material things that we take for granted have any significant relevance right now?How important is it to be pretentious and condescending, while we all feel isolated enough as it is?
Right now I have the utmost respect for first responders, and ALL people in the medical industry, putting their health at risk every day to help save the lives of others….this goes far beyond the act of selflessness. I’m also deeply touched by the genuine (and sometimes random and anonymous) acts of kindness of strangers. We had a homeless woman who was seeking shelter at the bus stop near our house – Jenn and I gave her clothes and blankets, and we encouraged her to find shelter (which she eventually did), but what really touched my heart was that quite a few people in our community were also concerned about her well being, as I was contacted by an elderly member of our neighborhood who also took steps to provide clothing, shelter and transportation. It’s really cool when material things are used as a way of helping others instead of being used as a selfish way to define one’s status.
I thank my mom for instilling in me the compassion to help others, as there are for more important things than having the biggest house, the newest car, and a pretentious attitude. There are those who define others based on “what can this person do for me” and there are those who define themselves as “what can I do for others”….the first group is purely gold and glitter – the second category are the true rock stars.
May these people be the shooting stars that continue to break the mold.