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Play On!

Louis Roney

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Nothing in your life is worth any more than your word. A broken word is a broken promise. If any word you’ve given has no value, what else about you is worth a damn?

Nothing is so disheartening as a broken promise. Of course, people have reasons to alter plans — and can easily do so by addressing them directly and promptly.

“But I have promises to keep,” said great poet Robert Frost in his thoughtful poem, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”.

When I was 19 or 20, I often looked at Robert Frost as he ate with colleagues a couple of tables away in the Eliot House dining room at Harvard. I wondered what promises he had made, and whether he was able to keep them all.

Frost was a troubled man. His daughter’s recent suicide weighed heavily upon him.

His happy young “birch swinging” days were lost in the distant past. Still, Frost kept faith with the tenets that ruled his life and his art.

Do people today thoughtlessly break promises made? This attitude is, “I’ll promise now and deal with it later.”

Among the seasoned prevaricators one meets nowadays, Ananias would have to strain his imagination to make the second team.

When Jimmy Carter asked, “Would I lie to yah?” what was the public’s immediate knee-jerk response?

Richard Nixon said to the nation about Watergate and the “cover up,” “Your president is not a crook.” Did that statement itself compound a lie?

George Washington’s “I cannot tell a lie” would bring derisive snorts if said by our present leader.

The old creed of a good upbringing, “Your word is your bond,” is viewed by too many people today as antediluvian.

For years, I worked as an opera singer in Germany. There, a verbal “Zusage” (pledge) on the telephone was as unbreakable as a signed contract.

Woe to the artist who failed to live up to a Zusage. He or she would be quietly ‘blackballed’ by the Theater Directors Association and never again be employed by anyone in the German theater system.

The Germans are probably no more moral in this respect than anyone else is. But they have learned that it’s not practical to run an enormous system of opera and play houses if everyone involved doesn’t keep his word fastidiously.

If one is to believe our newspaper and broadcast media, corruption has become the way of life at almost every economic and educational level.

We read that cheating on exams has become a national phenomenon — even in such institutions as Annapolis and West Point.

“Truth in advertising?” Are you kidding? What kind of naif are you anyhow?

As someone commented to me the other day, “Who can you trust nowadays?”

No matter what else of value a friend, or colleague, or mate has, if you cannot count on him or her, what have you got? … Sand that runs through your fingers.

If “the truth shall set you free,” voluntary bondage seems to be the state of mind of a large percentage of our population.