The Friday Morning Listen: Anoushka Shankar – Traces Of You (2013)

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Because our culture is so star/fame driven, we sometimes make the mistake of thinking that celebrities are immune from the problems of the day. That’s right, all of that money solves any personal problem, or at least makes it possible to hire a really great therapist. Right?

Well, I have no doubt that having tons of money can make some parts of life easier. Of course I have no experience with this, but it’s easy to imagine. Example: your car doesn’t want to start in the morning. Normal Me? I call the local garage and arrange for them to tow it to the shop. After they fix it (and charge me a pile of money for parts that, though I shake my head “Yes” when they describe them, I have no idea what they are. A “serpentine tensioner” for only $125? Gee, that’s a good deal!), I get TheWife™ to pick me up and drive us to get my car. We pay the bill, and then drive down the street to have Mexican food. Rich Me? I call my car guy and a new car shows up in the early afternoon. I pick up TheWife™ after she gets out of work, and we go down the street to have Mexican food.

Now that I’ve made light of the rich/poor thing, I’m going to change gears to talk about life and death. Not long ago, the great sitarist Ravi Shankar was in a period of declining health. Coincidentally, his daughter Anoushka was in the middle of making her next album. She brought in her sister, singer Norah Jones to collaborate on a few tracks. Was this their coping mechanism for dealing with the inevitable end of their father?

See, my own question makes me realize that I do indeed feel that these people are different. Yes, they’re sad about the end of their father’s life, but they’re creating art out of it — they’re not suffering in the same way that “normal” people are. The truth is that I have absolutely no idea what they’re feeling. I’ve been conditioned by society to think that the golden light of their special lives allows them to sidestep the ugly realities of mortality. I’m somewhat ashamed to say that there’s a part of me that feels this way. In fact, my early reaction to the news felt something like a reflex.

We habitually fall into traps of endless cliche´ in our relations with our fellow beings, after which a little bit of our ability to empathize with others is diminished. If we allow this to continue, there will come a time when we won’t even have empathy for ourselves.

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