Tuesday, January 22, 2008

And Here's One of Me in Front of...Well, Everything.

(in case you can't tell what this is, it's a self-portrait of an astronaut, taking his own picture while looking down at the earth. The earth--and the camera--are reflected in his spacesuit helmet)

One of the most interesting things about being a parent, or a teacher (or, really, just a moderately aware and sensitive human), is bumping up against the fact, from time to time, that your perception and understanding of reality may be radically different from someone else's. My elder son was born in 2000. He has never known a world without cell phones, email, the Internet, DVDs, TiVo, and so forth. And okay, yes, that's just a bunch of gadgets. But the way they affect and inform his dealings with the world around him, especially as a given, a from-birth assumption, make him somehow different from me--maybe a little bit; maybe a lot. And if I talk to him from inside my own assumptions, without taking his into account...do I know that we're actually communicating? I know what I'm saying, but do I know for sure what he's hearing?

It's not a new issue. After all, how do I know for sure that what he sees as the color red is what I see? How can I ever get outside my own perception to see things really-truly through another pair of eyes? I can't. So I assume. And we both talk about "red." And until or unless a conflict of definition comes up in conversation, I may never know that we're not seeing the same thing.

I remember being awakened by my parents to join them and all their friends in the living room to watch, on a tiny black and white TV, the fuzzy and amazing footage of the very first moon landing in 1969. I remember everyone crowded in the room (it was summer, and we were off in the woods where not everyone had a TV); I remember the looks of awe and amazement. I remember blinking away my sleepiness and sitting on the floor, watching Neil Armstrong step down onto the surface of the moon--something no human had ever done.

But this is a nice picture, too. I'll download it and email it over to Thing 1. Maybe he'll print it out and hang it up. Maybe he'll just look at it and say, "cool." Maybe he'll even realize that it's not a computer animation--that's it really, truly, real.

Whatever that means.

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