Tuesday, December 29, 2009

We all suck

I spent a great portion of last Friday reading this book -- a birthday gift from my friend, Emerald. She knows how much I love all things Denis Leary. Just a warning though -- he is not for the feint of heart. His warning in the prologue boils down to that there is at least one thing in the book guaranteed to piss just about everyone off.

Now a great deal of the book discusses children and our treatment of them in the United States. There is a whole chapter in fact on children and self-esteem. And how parents today seem bent on protecting their child from damage to his/her self-esteem. I don't know if this is everywhere but it certainly seems to occur quite a bit in Berkeley. I give you this passage from the book, describing his experiences at Emerson.

"But instead of cursing the darkness we lit it up -- using the advice of one Dr. James Randall we formed The Emerson Comedy Workshop. Dr. Randall forced the Student Government Association to recognize The Workshop as a legitimate theater group and fund it, thereby allowing us to write all of our own one-act plays, variety shows, mini-musical parodies -- whatever came to mind. We even ended up getting credit for all the creative work as well as the set design, lighting design, tech work et al. We did three to four shows a year. We were almost always last on the list for available theater space, but we would take whatever we were given -- lecture halls, raw square spaces, even -- in my favorite turn of events -- a former church -- and have to outfit it with a stage, lights, backstage area and seating. Our limitations always became a plus. [My emphasis.] Our shows were funny, exciting and always on the cutting edge and what began as what some people thought of as an impossibility became the hardest ticket in town -- we sold out every single production for every show three theater seasons a year for three seasons running. The Workshop still exists a full thirty-two years later. I'm not telling you this a form of braggadocio -- I'm informing you how our generation of kids refused to accept the status quo. We rebelled and it paid off -- big-time.

That's an example of the power of not taking no for an answer. As a matter of fact -- taking no and turning it into a giant gleaming Yes."

This is what is possible when a child is taught that sometimes we all fail. See? That's how I grew up. Well sort of. Because I had one parent who was like this at least. One who let me believe that anything was possible -- within realistic boundaries. (To show how much this parent believes, when I used to do a great deal of handmade crafts, I was asked how much start-up I would need to make this my full-time occupation.) And yes, this parent usually wanted to try to pick up the pieces and make everything better for me. But also respected me enough that when I said, "You know it's OK to say no sometimes. How else will I learn to pick myself up?" Hmmm. Or maybe that was just me parenting myself. Because it seems like I did a lot of that back then.

So in my opinion, in this way he's right. I think that to never teach a child that while sometimes things don't work out the way we plan, we can persevere -- and maybe even achieve -- is to do the child a great disservice. Because isn't the idea to prepare them to one day enter the world and to be equipped to take care of themselves? Yeah, that's right. I, the non-parent, has the audacity to talk about parenting. Because I spent five years dealing with your children in the classroom. And I see them when I go shopping. But more importantly, I know that I am the person I am today because other people -- some who never had children of their own -- helped my parents to parent me.

And speaking of parenting, there's a great chapter in the book on Hollywood kids. Or actually that's the lack of parenting in that case.

Bottom line is that if you like satire and don't mind poking fun at yourself every now and then, you'll probably enjoy this book. Me? I personally plan to buy several more copies to hand out as gifts in the future.


Post a Comment