As I keep telling myself–and everyone else who will stand still for 30 seconds–I am a very Libertarian type of person. I really do believe in “Live and Let Live”. As a Christian Libertarian I also believe in the second clause “…and let God sort it out.”
Lately, though, I’ve been having a problem with the way certain other people live their lives. I feel no small measure of guilt, which is why I’m writing about it. Also, I suppose, I just need a healthy vent.
My prime example is a fellow we’ll call Leonard.* Leonard decided when he was younger that he wanted to be a musician*. For years he knocked around Nashville in one entry level job after another, doing the kinds of things people do to keep their heads above water. He bagged groceries and pulled espressos and talked about being a musician. Even though he didn’t have a guitar. He had the good fortune to be married to a woman who decided that if they were to have any life at all, she’d better buckle down and be the one in a “grind” of profession, so Lucy* became a nurse. She worked around the clock and her paychecks financed their lifestyle. Eventually Leonard’s parents bought him a guitar so that he could actually play gigs. And then Leonard got discovered in an unlikely and fairy tale way. He put out a couple of albums for a small label, then transferred to a larger label and put out a couple more. He also played sessions on a few other albums, one of which hit the big time. As a sessions player on a top 10 album, he ate out for years on the reflected glory. But none of his own albums did very well. Eventually his label dropped him. So now Leonard hangs out on the internet and talks with other people about Deep Issues and the problems in the music industry. He fiddles around on his guitar, coming up with new songs that sound like the same songs on the albums that nobody bought.
All this time, Lucy has been raising their children and working sixty hour weeks.
Of course, the libertarian in me looks at Leonard and Lucy and says “well, whatever works for them. If that’s how they’re content, then great.”
But here’s the thing. They do have kids. And their kids have grown up always wanting for things. Not much, if Lucy could help it. But there were long stretches of wearing nothing but secondhand clothes and driving over to grandpa’s to get money to pay the utility bills. Right now they are struggling financially. Leonard’s former trickle of income has dropped to the occasional droplet of dimes. Several friends have offered Leonard good jobs in companies that have good health plans so that his daughter can finally get the medical attention she needs for an ongoing health problem.
But Leonard turns them down because he’s following his muse.
This is where I have issues, folks. Leonard isn’t one person. I live in Nashville, TN and my “Leonard” is an amalgam of about 15 guys I know in various artsy jobs. But the one thing they all have in common that bugs the snot out of me is that they all have children. And as much as I want to say it’s okay for someone to follow their bliss if that’s what they work out between their spouses and landlords and themselves I can’t quite wrap my mind around the idea of bringing children into the world and then not putting your big boy pants on.
I suppose that perhaps it’s because children WERE the pipe dream I chased for so many years. Or maybe it’s because I am married to a man whose father did similar things and who still bears very real scars from the experience. But the way I see it, once you bring a life into this world you sign a pact with the universe that you will do everything within your power to make that child’s life as good as possible. That doesn’t mean that if you aren’t making a million dollars you’re not a good parent. But I do think it means you don’t turn down good jobs so you can sit at home and play around on Facebook while your kids have untreated medical conditions and shop at Goodwill for all their clothes.