_ Last week I enjoyed some of my time away from work and practice watching a Japanese anime called “Fullmetal Alchemist”. Even though I have a Japanese language background, anime has never really been of any interest to me, but I decided to give this one a try based on the opinions of a few of my friends. After having finished the entire series (thanks to Netflix) I must say I’ve been entertained, and the show has provoked some thoughts about our everyday lives in my head. The idea of the show is that alchemy is a science that deals with the redistribution of the make-up of objects to create something new, centering around the law of equivalent exchange which states that in order to gain, something of equal value must be lost. For example, if a clock is smashed to pieces, alchemy allows all of the broken parts to be redistributed into a working clock again. I like this concept because it exists, in a way, in real life, except that what we gain isn’t always equal to what we’ve lost, and when we lose, we don’t always gain something in return.
Let’s start by considering something simple, like cooking. To bake a cake, certain materials are put into a bowl and “lost” into a single substance, and when heated gives you something different from what you started with. That exchange is pretty equivalent, right? The same could apply to home repair. Right now we have a slight leak under our kitchen sink, and it’s an issue I’d love to lose right about now. In order for this to happen, though, an equivalent amount of effort must be exerted, which I guess me, Andy, or a plumber need to get on top of. Even buying items at the store (theoretically) are equivalent exchanges – an amount of money for the equal amount of a product (yes I know it’s not like that always but let’s pretend for now).
In my work life, however, I tend to doubt this law of equivalent exchange, simply because it doesn’t always feel as such. Consider the alchemy of music. How many hours a week go into practice, reed making, listening, and the like? For that time and energy spent, is the outcome always equivalent? I feel that I’ve been fairly successful, but I haven’t yet earned the money that could pay for thousands of hours of work, or maybe I have. I most certainly haven’t gotten an equal amount of reeds based on my effort there – if you have let me know! Either way I thank God because it has given me so many things indirectly, like friends, travel, and other experiences. Beyond that it’s given me hope. Playing for an orchestra professionally was a bit of a pipe dream for me, but it’s happening and I couldn’t be more excited. Putting effort and time into a dream offers hope if nothing else, and that’s definitely priceless.
The work I’m doing this summer, however, definitely shows qualities of unequal exchanges. When I look at surplus lists at my job with MCS and see teachers who may be out of work next school year due to budget cuts and other things, no number of years as a teacher can help – there’s no safety zone or subject area, and it’s a shame that education isn’t a priority in our society. Losing a job after 20-something years of experience does not automatically give way for something equal to be gained – it has to be sought after and maybe even fought for! I hope it works out for all of our teachers, and I hope a way is made for those individuals who have a passion for it to take precedence over those looking for a two-year segue between college and graduate school (no tea no shade). As far as my part-time job as a taxi dispatcher, well, if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you know how I feel about it. The time I put into that place is by no means returning what I feel is deserved, but what is time worth? A physical price can’t be put on someone’s time, so maybe no one thinks they’re making enough money at their part-time jobs, if your budget requires you to have one. It’s just good to know that it’s temporary and that one day my job won’t be something a dread, but love.
If I don’t win the audition I have coming up next month, I’ll enjoy practicing my musical alchemy up in Detroit and learning new things about a different part of the country, a world-renowned orchestra, and myself. I’ll just have to remember to only expect to receive as much as I’ve put into something, and vice versa. That means I need to get on that bassoon when I get off today! Are you looking for more than you’re willing to sacrifice? Do you sacrifice more than you expect to receive?