At the end of another school year, which always creates a slurry of emotions at the estuary of the single year and the rest of time, I think of things.
Did you see “National Treasure”? I did, years ago. I thought it was a fun pass down to the kids of the apex of our governance, that the peak we stand on is built on the long parade of unreasoning, and at last we have come to value reason over might, at least as a creed, if not always in action, but even with the articulation of that hope, we begin the journey toward it. And although the metaphor was courted throughout the movie with a few good lines (“If there’s something wrong, those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action”) – the literal manifestation of the National Treasure, which could have been the map itself, the long journey, on the back of the Declaration of Independence, the long work toward freedom; the movie manifest the greatest treasure passed down to be gold instead, because, well, people like me like shiny things. But I don’t know if that delivered the goods, if you know what I mean. I know a movie can’t be too preachy. But hey, a central theme of humanity might be okay as a theme for movie climax, right? To say, “hey, we’ve had the treasure all along, it is us, our lifestyle, our freedoms, the map we carry…”- maybe a be a bit too Wizard of Oz, I suppose.
I wonder though, why the things I think of as so utterly basic to who we are as a nation, seem to have slipped from common understanding. I wonder where the breakdown occurred.
A former student asked if I had ever seen “Poltergeist”. He was venturing into a change in our relationship- he was doing an “adult thing” by seeing a scary movie, and trying to relate on that adult realm, years after he was a student of mine. “Yes!” I said. “I really liked the metaphor of how screens steal away our youth”. By the look on his face, I could see the movie might not have delivered that to him, just yet.
I wonder about my own imperceptiveness, and what things, bigger and smaller I have missed. Oceans are implied by the shells I have found. I wonder what great recipes have not been passed down, or techniques have been lost. I struggle with the idea that my own lack of awareness may bring discontinuity, even the death or extinction of something. I’m certain it is true, in this, the Anthropocene.
So what lasts? We know that our grandma’s experience becomes our genetic code. Even more proximal, a mother’s milk, shaped by her own experiences, affects the “hardware” of the baby. Down into the molecules, our behaviors manifest. Out of the ether comes the matter.
I took some students to a farm, two years ago. An organic farm, and the farmer was a spry 77 year old, doing work, speaking to the students with excellent illustration of earth to person affect. I was spellbound, and asked if he had written his spiel down, made a book. “No,” he said, “It would not hold the resonance of my voice.” I don’t know what it means, really. More shells, probably. His response stuck to me, such an anachronistic thing. A thing out of time. Something that lasts with me.
What strands of thought, of DNA, how our love and lives be smithied into the collective conscious, or the legacy of individuals, I do not know. So, back to the personal, the people I love, the moments that last with me. Another year, and I have always been so lucky.