I co-led an hour-long seminar this summer on the business side of being a composer. We covered a lot of topics: commissions, publication, recordings — the works.
At one point, I mentioned what a small world it is, despite appearances. We keep running into the same people over and over in different contexts, and the way you treat people when you are young will almost certainly have an impact on your future.
The quick and easy answer to this situation is to always treat everyone with respect and grace, which seems like a wise rule to follow in any interaction.
But what to do with people for whom you feel little respect, once you get to know them? Should respect be paid when you feel it is undeserved? Is insincerity the right path?
Those are questions I wonder about from time to time. My default is to assume ignorance — ignorance on my part, that is. I always figure there must be something I’m not aware of, some aspect of a person’s life that makes him who he is, that makes the way he behaves make sense, even though my first reaction to his behavior may be dismay. In other words, when I encounter someone whose character or music I find disturbing or uninteresting, I tend to attribute it to differences in background and expectations.
With 7.5 billion people on this planet, it stands to reason I won’t understand some of them. In fact, it’s easy to imagine that I would understand very few of them.
So I find it relatively easy to show respect to people even when their actions are at odds with my beliefs. It doesn’t work 100% of the time, but in the world of human interactions, what does?