Archive for October, 2011
Last Wednesday Frank Sesno and George Washington University hosted a screening of One Revolution. The space was beautiful, film projection quality was perfect, and there was wonderful crowd. Thank you to Frank, GW and the Washington Film Institute.
My buddy Eli in Yarmouth, ME told me that he would send me The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth. When he told me he would send the book, he implied that it was an anthem for him and his generation. I’d just finished presenting to Eli’s school, and there was a connection. My presentation had stood up for him and emboldened him. This was personal, and the reason he told me in front of the whole school that he would send me The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth. He took a chance to cement the connection—a connection that might change his outlook and future.
In the years that I’ve been doing our Nametags presentations, I’ve thought about books, stories and songs that hit a similar theme to our presentation. Obviously, there’s the The Ugly Duckling, a story that almost all of us have read. There are so many ugly duckling stories out there—women and men—stars, who are now our prototypical “beautiful,” who were true ugly ducklings. Even with their fame they still remember the pain of being “ugly.”
Eli connected with Geeks because it tells his story, but he’s not the first. I recently read an article about Bruce Springsteen’s song “Glory Days.” Bruce really did run into that high school pitcher as he was coming out of a bar. The guy was supposed to go pro, but never made it and now is an unemployed carpenter. Bruce, whom this guy had nicknamed “Sadie” for his miserable baseball game back in the day, went on to fabulous success.
Stephen King’s It chronicles the geeks rising up. King more than any writer I’ve read puts himself in each of the characters. He, like all of us, is at once the bully and the bullied. Maybe we don’t always indulge both sides, but are both the bully and the bullied.
This summer, while delayed in the Minneapolis Airport, I picked up Thirteen Reasons Why. It’s a great read about a truly miserable subject, teenage suicide. The story unfolds like a thriller that doesn’t spare the reader self-reflection regarding the injuries that he/she might have caused—the jokes that were only jokes in the eyes of the joker—the times that we stole from someone else and didn’t realize that we were stealing or how deep the damage could go.
Thirteen Reasons Why is one of the best books that I’ve read in a while. It’s aimed at teenagers, but reads equally well for adults. Thinking about Nametags I’ve returned to some of the stories that I read as a kid.
The Catcher in the Rye, with Holden constantly referring to all the phonies connects with all of us who feel like we’re on the outside looking in. It’s about the phonies, but it’s about taking that risk too—about potentially falling. Salinger wrote, “All the kids kept trying to grab for the gold ring, and so was old Phoebe, and I was sort of afraid she’d fall off the goddamn horse, but I didn’t say anything or do anything. The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it’s bad if you say anything to them.”
To Kill a Mockingbird: There’s a line toward the end of the book that I can’t find on the internet, and since I didn’t bring my copy of the book with me, you might have to go find it yourself. In Scout’s classroom they talk about Hitler and his atrocities. There are comments about how he should be treated, and then a clinching double standard line that he should be treated humanely because he’s white.
A Separate Peace: To me this book was about how convention of becoming an adult and a leader means killing innocence and vulnerability, yet Phineas stands a perfect model of what we’d like to be if we had the courage. When Finny calls Gene his best friend, Gene notes that this is something that one doesn’t do at their school. He says, “I should have told him then that he was my best friend also and rounded off what he had said. I started to; I nearly did. But something held me back. Perhaps I was stopped by that level of feeling, deeper than thought, which contains the truth.”
I’ve been thinking for a while about amassing a collection of books that compliment our efforts with Nametags: knowing that the life as we know it can and most likely will get better, that sometimes we need to risk falling to succeed, that our actions carry a lot of weight, that there is an amazing power in innocence and honesty, among other things.
I thank my buddy Eli for prompting me to start the list of books that teach us not to make our fears someone else’s fears through our persecution of them. Eli found a book that eased his feelings of being solitary or separate. I’d imagine that for him it seemed the book written just for him. He’s not alone in his thoughts because we’ve had those thoughts forever and there have been stories to ease those feelings for an equally long time. Thank you Eli. To all of you who read this, please add your reading suggestions as well.