Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Joseph, 2018; Guiseppe, 1618

So many little things are so profound but we spend so much time fixated on the wrong aspects of those things.

My sixteen-year-old son got into the car yesterday, having been sent into the school office to take care of a little piece of business. He got it wrong.

I found myself lecturing him: "You need to stay focused on the thing you're doing and not on the thing you are looking forward to doing. I know you want to get done and leave, but..."

Within seconds, I saw myself sitting in the passenger seat, in 1984, being told the same thing by my own agitated father. Immediately, I smiled to myself and told my son that I had been in his seat, both quite literally and quite metaphorically, many times. My dad had told me the same, exact thing (over and over).

In that moment, I felt deeply connected to my dad again. I also felt overwhelmed by the profundity of the truth -- what I really think Keats meant by "Beauty" (not aesthetics but the profound) in his famous "Beauty is truth, truth, beauty" line.

This particular truth is that life is a continual rewrite of our past and of the past before our past. We look at the work our parents did and we separate the good from the bad and try to improve on the bad and to capture the good in what they did for us. We try to evolve into better parents -- and people -- than they were, no matter how good they were. (I know I want my boys to be ten-times the man I am.) We go one and on, generation after generation, era after era, doing this.

It is also true that what we so often comically write off as "I sound like my mother/father" is really the echo of an epic story that goes back to the beginning of every family line, back to the first sea-fleeing slime the was to evolve into our ancestors. (In my case, probably slime with glasses and too much affinity for bread.)

So, yeah, I sound like my dad sometimes because my sons often sound, act, succeed and fail,  just like I did. And that is powerful.

It is so powerful, that it makes me realize how unimportant it is to dwell on sentiments like "Oy, kids today..." when their sometimes annoying traits are really profoundly beautiful and really proof to me that the spirit of the Matarazzo roots going back to the very beginning of it all. Somewhere perhaps, in Renaissance Italy, a Matarazzo and his son were in the cart, the boy -- with dark eyes, mysteriously like my own son's -- looking sheepish and the father looked at him and said, "Devi rimanere concentrato sulla cosa che stai facendo..."


But here's the rub: The kid still needs to learn to take care of business. Not dwelling on the mundane in the face of the profound is wise, but letting your kids become irresponsible is profoundly wrong. It just ain't the end of the world, though, when your kid leaves his socks on the floor. So many things in life are like this. Problem is, the more one realizes this, the more people look at him (we'll call him "Chris") like he's crazy.

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