Tuesday, June 02, 2009

How big is your world?

It is probably an obvious thing, but today I noticed how my circle of relationships carries the potential to expand my world and teach me new things if I let it. On Saturday afternoon I attended a showing of 18 short films at a local theater that specializes in documentaries, independent and foreign film. This is not my ordinary routine, but on this ocasion I had a special reason for going. One of the films was directed by my 17 year-old son. In fact, all of the films had been produced by students enrolled in a high school film class. As you might expect, most of what I saw was not quite ready for prime time, but many of the films delivered very effective moments and almost of all gave me something to think about. Of course the greatest benefit of going to the showing was the opportunity to share it with my son. Our time together afforded me a very interesting window into the inside of his head and how he thinks about his particular creative process.

As I ruminated about these things, I remember my father mentioning on several occasions that he wished he could have had the opportunity to study the things his children had learned—I am a professional musician, one of my brothers is a computer programmer, the other brother is a mechanical engineer, and my sister studied interior design but practices all sorts of creative arts. We are an eclectic bunch—two in our “right minds” as artistic types and two more nerdy left brainers who are more technically oriented. My own kids seem to be following their own desultory mix of passions with my first-born immersed in both computer technology and music in equal measure, the second son is the afore-mentioned film maker who still plays baseball with a deep passion and then my daughter, the youngest, lives to dance and literally spends most of her waking hours in the studio between classes and rehearsals.

As parents we have encouraged our kids to do things that we found interesting but that certainly didn't keep them from finding their own ways in the world. It occurs to me that one might be tempted to stop living one’s own life to be swallowed up by living vicariously through others’ experiences. So far, that hasn't really been my problem. Today, I am simply marveling at the ways my world expands through the lives of the people around me. If it is true that each of us has a circle of approximately 250 reasonably close personal contacts, think of how much we can learn those people that we could never experience for ourselves in any other way.

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