June 6, 2009 in City

Bad economy has silver lining

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Once, I sat through an excruciating orchestral rendition of “The Nutcracker Suite.”

You know the famous part that goes, “Dah-da-da-dah-dut-dah”?

Well, the French horns in this community orchestra played it “Duh- duh-dut-BLAAT-BLATT-BLATT.” Except when they played it, “FLAAAT-FLAAT-FLAAT.”

As for the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” suffice it to say that the Sugar Plum Fairy did not dance. She stumbled around drunkenly and fell on her little fairy keister.

Yet as it turned out, this performance (nowhere near Spokane, by the way) was the most valuable and enriching symphonic performance I have ever attended. And the lesson I took from this performance is the exact same lesson which is helping me gain some perspective about our economy, currently stumbling around drunkenly and falling on its little Fannie Mae.

You’ll have to read to the column’s end if you want find out the connection, although mercifully, in our new narrower and tighter format, that will come quicker than ever.

First let me tell you how that “Nutcracker” has enriched my life: Its very ineptitude made me appreciate excellence even more. Heck, it even made me appreciate plain old competence.

This thought struck me most forcefully while I was listening to our own symphony, the Spokane Symphony, perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony last month. The symphony is so good and so professional, they made performing this stormy and profound symphony sound easy. That’s one of the marks of excellence: Something impossibly complicated can sound as easy and natural as whistling.

I had a similar enriching experience – involving my own ineptitude – a few years ago when I went to one of those Seattle Mariners fantasy camps. This is where aging wannabes like me spend a week pretending to be major leaguers. However, the staff consisted of real, retired major leaguers. So, for fun, they would occasionally pitch to us. When I got in the batter’s box, I heard a few of those pitches – they make a whirring sound – but I never saw one and I certainly didn’t hit one.

My batting average for the entire week was .200 – and that was against the pitching of my fellow inept campers. Since then, I have found it far more difficult to yell, “Ya bum!” at a major leaguer batting .230.

The overall lesson: You can never appreciate the excellent, the wonderful or even the merely normal, if you haven’t first experienced the awful, the dismal and the truly abysmal.

We are, right at this moment, experiencing the awful, the dismal and the truly abysmal in our nation’s economic life. It’s hard to imagine how this can possibly be good for us.

Yet, just like hearing a “Nutcracker” in the key of Z minor, this is an experience we will carry with us our entire lives. And I guarantee it will make the good times, or the normal times, or just the slightly-less-awful times seem that much better, that much happier, that much richer – when they finally arrive.

That said, a bad “Nutcracker” is a little easier to take. You can walk out at intermission. With a bad economy, you just have to sit there until the last rotten note goes BLAAT. Here’s hoping we hear it soon.


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