Friday, November 6, 2015

Growing Up in the Age of Masterpiece Theater

 My kids are born multitaskers.  They can watch a Japanese anime, read the subtitles, check their email, send a text, sketch in their journals, pose for a selfie, and converse in a third language all at the same time.  It boggles my mind.  I find myself telling them, "Do one thing.  Focus on one thing at a time.  The world is about seeing the invisible."  But... who does that anymore?
 When I was a boy I grew up in total isolation on a farm in Oregon.  I would watch an episode of Blackadder or Dr. Who or catch Stupid Human Tricks on Letterman and come to school the next day and nobody knew what I was talking about.  It was so difficult to find one person to relate to.  Nowadays children grow up surrounded by so much love and support.  They make brave and intellectual choices that are often public or viral... they 'come out' to an almost mandatory applause.  It makes me long for the days of quiet and focused youthful introspection.
 It's not their fault, really.  It's this age we live in.  This truly amazing age of back-logged information.  It wasn't too long ago that we actually had to wait for things.... I suppose we still do.  The world is awaiting Star Wars episode 7... but I waited my whole life for the first six movies to appear in theaters, but yet my daughters binge-watched all six in one day.  They have access to things we didn't dream of a generation ago.  Maybe patience is a different virtue now... because of the time spent in-between the times that matter.  The invisible meantime... is now the age of access.
 My kids teach me this all the time.  I'll play... a James Brown record or ... read them a Sylvia Plath poem... and two days later they will come back having listened to and read everything by that artist.  It's astounding.  They just have that internet access.  We were in the car once and a Maroon Five song came on the radio.  Before I could change the station to Prairie Home Companion (I am a total snob after all) they had downloaded the catchy tune, and we're asking me who Mick Jagger was.  Three days later, they had half-memorized the cannon of Rolling Stone songs.
 Do anyone even remember SPIN magazine anymore?  Remember reading about a band and maybe getting a fuzzy bootleg recording and waiting weeks for them to show up in your town and scrounging up a ticket?  Does anybody do that anymore?  There was such an honest pureness to it.  Perseverance.  A sustained curiosity.  I miss it.
 That being said... nobody is going back to the days of old.  No, we are plunging ahead full speed.  But the access of information allows parents an opportunity to present the world to their children in such amazing ways.  Gone are the days of sitting through reruns of TV sit-coms or rehashing last weeks' Reality Show shenanigans.  No, you can literally give your children a masterpiece a night.  Be it art, literature, music, history, film, documentary... you can present a life's work to them in a matter of hours... and they just consume it.
And so I do.  I'm careful in my parenting.  I find balance.  I take my daughters to these places... like the white sands of Puka Beach in the Philippines...where locals ice down Coca-Colas in the running stream and fan themselves with palm leaves and the only distraction is the surf and catching a fish with a spear we're going to grill-up over coals in the shade of a hut.  We will sit and close our eyes and focus on the that one invisible thing growing ever smaller and smaller in our feverish world.  Then at night, when I tell them, "Let's take the top thirty movies from 1962 and watch one, every day for the month of November." They will be ready.  Calm.  Eyes open.  They'll tell me, "Yeah Dad, go!"

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