Sunday, March 16, 2008

Death of a salesman

On Friday night I went to see Death of a Salesman. Each time I read or see the play, something different sticks out to me. This time, I caught myself pondering over what we equate with value in this life. The theme that struck me repeatedly was that nothing has value unless it can be sold. Tangible, measurable commodities - in this stage world - are the only things that hold value. Uncle Ben continually chided Willy for not seeking riches in the jungle, discounting being well-liked and having good children. (Never mind the fact that those were both illusions.) Ben brings up the idea, "now that (money) is something you can hold onto." If you can't heft it, if it isn't palpable, it is not valuable. How ironic that money is the one thing (although tangible) that we cannot hold onto. In the end (in my eyes) Willy cedes to the idea that money and the amassing of things is what gives a man worth. He believes he will be of more value dead than alive, because his life insurance will provide his family with "value" that they were lacking all those years. $20,000, after all, is a whole lot of value. Willy says, "After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive." While material worth may have increased with his death, moral worth declined.
These thoughts were coupled with some scriptures I have been thinking about. In 2nd Nephi, it talks of priestcrafts, how churches will "preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain and grind upon the face of the poor." "...behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion." Nephi then suggests that the antithesis and solution to these priestcrafts is charity. "Wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love...Wherefore, if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish... for if they labor for money they shall perish." I return to my original question: What do we value in this life? It seems that in the process of valuing monetary gain, worldly recognition, and praise, we begin to seek not the welfare of Zion. We become so focused on ourselves, our own "needs" and pursuits that we cease to notice the needs of those around us. We begin to suffer our fellow laborers to perish, and we grind their faces, so to speak. We can choose to value equality and charity, or money and praise. It is, of course, not that black and white. But the beginning steps of valuing one or the other take us down well-trodden, opposing paths. Seeing Death of a Salesman was a positive impetus for me to examine the black, white, and gray areas of my values.

6 comments:

Jecca Lee Ivie Johnson said...

Yeah, I read that book when I was about 12 or 13 because I found it on our family's bookshelf. That Arthur Miller can sure throw you into a lengthy gloom! Good for you for pulling some of the deep, insightful meaning out of it, though! Pretty much, at 12, I just thought, "wow, who would knowingly choose this book for a light summer read?" Oh well, you live and learn!

Scott and Laura said...

Leave it to Heath to get the deep meaning out. You never cease to amaze me my dear friend. I miss you and I miss chatting with you. We should have more chats more often. :)

mel said...

haa, Jess you are classic :)
Heath: you're valuable to me and I can heft you around- but I wont exchange you like money... cos well, that would make you a hooker.

i dont know why I said that, but I love reading your insightful blog!

Jecca Lee Ivie Johnson said...

I guess that would make you a pimp, Mel! Oh, don't deny it, that's your dream job! Sorry Heather, Mel and I are so naughty! But I also think you are valuable and would love to carry you around in my pocket! Like a wocket! That's from Dr. Seuss! Now there's an author that can pull you out of any sort of deep gloom! Take that Arthur Miller!

mel said...

hey! Watch it Jess, A person's a person, no matter how small! ;) My dream job? ha, only if it involves wearing overalls. haaaa.

Jecca Lee Ivie Johnson said...

Only if they were overalls with holes in them! You could be a country-fried pimp! Right now Heather is probably thinking, "why is my blog being used for this silly banter?" Sorry Heather, from now on i'll send my inside jokes directly to melinda's blog site! I'll reserve yours for serious, responsible messages that respond to your insightful blogs! Love you! Miss you!