Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters

I am becoming the person my father tried to create

When I was a kid my dad pushed high culture on me like Popeye's dad did spinach. And just like it WAS healthy green vegetable being forced down my too-young-to-appreciate it gullet, I rejected it. Because if there's one way to be sure to make a kid will hate something it's to tell him he has to like it. Then it becomes work, something he HAS to do, and who the fuck wants that? If listening to Chopin becomes analogous to cleaning your room then you WILL grow to hate Chopin, no matter how good the music actually is. It was the same thing with science and math. They were forced on me so I grew to dislike them, even though I had aptitudes for both. I still remember in 11th grade when my friend, who would go on to M.I.T., came to tutor me in math. We started working on my homework together and as he plugged numbers into his calculator I did the equations in my head, outracing him. After about 15 minutes he turned to me and said "You don't need a tutor, you just need to pay attention and actually do your work." And he was right, but I couldn't. Because I hated it. Because Math is WORK!

I often think that one of the reasons I'm more drawn to certain arts is that those were the ones my father just let me experience without trying to force them on me. We would watch old Abbott and Costello movies or listen to Lone Ranger radio shows for recreation, rather than work, while understanding the Pythagorean theorem was something that had to be done before you could go out to play (I think I was around 6-7 years old.) I turned away from classical music because that was "Medicine" culture and from 'high art' for the same reason. I still remember my first trip to the Metropolitan Opera house. I got some expensive chocolate and fell asleep during The Magic Flute because I couldn't understand it (this was before subtitling in opera houses took off.)

And yet as I age, and my father is no longer there shoving this stuff down my throat, I find myself drawn back to the 'finer' arts. I recently purchased Yo-Yo Ma's famous Bach Cello Suite recordings on an impulse, and they are indeed lovely. Really really lovely. And I can see why you'd want to share them with a child, because they are a different type of beauty than that of 'popular' music. They are something rich and deep and wonderful.

And I have some fugues on my computer that I listen to from time to time, and when I've been to museums recently they are less and less a chore. And I do not know if it's just the natural result of aging, or psychological growth, or what, but I think that if I met my father today and he tried to share his cultural tastes with me, I'd be much more open than I was at 12.

The thing is, if you want a child to learn to like something the best thing you can do is expose him to it, and then let him come to his own conclusions. Pressure backfires. Play concerto's on the piano and offer to get him lessons, but do not require him to take them. Buy books on fine art and leave them around the house, but do not drag him whining and screaming to a museum to stare bitterly at the old masters. My dad didn't get that you can't impose your tastes on someone else, you can only share and hope they can learn to appreciate what you like.

And I am starting to appreciate those things. And it feels good.
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