award-winning documentarian: radio + music + photography
Today my heart is heavy as I reflect on the place of my childhood years from birth until age 8. It was Hingham, Massachusetts, a suburb south of Boston. I lived in a modest home right next door to my best childhood friend. Well, it wasn't exactly next door. There was a little forest grove between our homes with a path leading to each other. It was magical to feel the autonomy in what seemed to be a forest. Really it was just a few trees, but to the mind of a young child, it was a mythological world of imagining pirates and dragons, faires and queens sitting for tea time at the grand table of a tree fallen, naturally, in the space between our homes. No plastic cups, just pretend ones. No costumes, just pretend ones. That is what we kids did with time on our hands, un-scheduled. Those were the days when kids went out in the morning during summers and played, dreamed, invented from sunrise to sunset. Our parents were around, but not outside watching us. This way of life ingrained in me the same sense I try to create for my kids. It's not the same in urbanity, of course, but I do carve out slivers and tastes of what a slower, simpler life can provide in the midst of iPod touch land (my son recently bought one with his own, partially-earned, saved money). I do feel pulled to embrace the madness of the jet fast zeitgeist, or else be squashed by its allure. It is the art of holding boundaries to contain and utilize the innovation of the day.
Today after school, my son and his best neighborhood friend, who lives 4 houses away, both turning 8 years old this month, were playing basketball on the street, as their younger siblings drew chalk art on the sidewalk, which had a very similar molasses sort of feel to my experience in Hingham. An elder woman, age 87, drove up slowly with a gigantic, heartfelt smile, her sister's daughter was in the driver's seat. They stopped outside of our home and gazed with nostalgia. I asked if I could help her and she told me, "I raised my three boys in this house 60 years ago. Such fond memories. So much has changed and yet the street feels the same." At the very same time during this lovely interaction, unbeknownst to me in the moment, there was a bomb going off across the country, in what was my childhood home, in the place where I feel nostalgic, in the place where my dad ran the Boston Marathon.
The 8 year old boy who lost his life today in this senseless act of violence struck me deeply, not to mention the horrific news of people's limbs exploding off from their bodies. In a Rockwellian moment where childhood can feel so pure, so unadulterated, so timeless, there is another reality at play, simultaneously. Today I am experiencing a visceral sense of holding opposites, as if our humanity depends on feeling both the tragic pain of our world as well as the poetic awe of being alive, breathing, right now in this moment. To understand in our bones that everything can change in the blink of an eye allows for appreciating what is right here right now, together.
The RSA Animate short film, The Empathic Civilization, speaks to this idea that human beings are fundamentally wired to experience pangs of universal empathy. This characteristic bonds us to each other and what matters most as it relates to our survival: face-to-face, empathic connection, which is where our species is ultimately headed.
Another song is coming.... I can feel it.