this american attempt at life.


my cousin and i just watched the first season of this american life all in one sitting. i knew the moment i saw the first segment, act one, that i wanted to watch the entire thing. the truth is, i could probably watch most, if not all, the episodes all over again, and i told him that he needed to put the second season at the top of his queue right away. there's really nothing that amazing about the show. it's all about ordinary american citizens who try to accomplish something. people like you and me.

my youngest cousin doesn't really like to leave the house. he's kind of a homebody. he plays with this toy called skyline, or skyfair, or something, the type of toy where you build and build these green tracks to make a kind of rollercoaster. then, he drops his little silver marble down the track and he watches the ball go up and down, through loops, up and down again. sometimes, the ball gets thrown off track, and he has to make adjustments to his track. he likes doing this, and his dad helps him. he also looks up videos of rollercoaster crashes (they're not real crashes, but something like sims rollercoaster crashes) on youtube. tonight, he showed me some, and then he said, "isn't that cool?"

we hung out in my bedroom, and since there is really nothing in my bedroom except for records he wouldn't want to listen to, i made him read a section from the slingshot organizer. he's nine years old, and i made him read aloud a section called, "never talk to the police." he had trouble sounding out words like "anarchist" and "oppression," so i gave him some poetry instead. he read a charles bukowski poem called "sweet sound" or something like that, and when he finished, he said, "okay. i have no idea what that was about." in truth, i didn't either, so i didn't try to explain it.

i pulled down jane kenyon's poem, one of four poems hanging on my bare bedroom walls, entitled "once there was a light," and he read it. again, he said he had no idea what was going on. this time, i pretended like i knew what i was talking about. we talked about how the author once envisioned that she was a speck of light in the great river of light that undulates throughout time. i tried to explain how maybe the author saw herself as this tiny, insignificant speck, and then i told him how we really are, in comparison to how large the universe is. he agreed with that. and then there was the part about how she was floating with the whole human family - those who have died, those who are living, and those who are not yet born. i thought he might have had trouble visualizing the "those who are not yet born" type, so i brought up my cousin's child, due in december. he stunned me when he said, "like your friend." he was talking about naomi, who i briefly mentioned earlier when i showed him my facebook page.

maybe i didn't give him as much credit as i thought a nine year-old deserved. maybe i'm always underestimating everyone. i think everyone is capable of these really heart-breaking, life-changing, monumental insights, but they just keep it to themselves. they see these miraculous things, but they keep talking on their cell phone anyway. because that's what we do, and that's what it means to live in the year 2008. i made him read "ignoring buddha," too, the poem about the guy who is on his cell phone, complaining about "the usual indignities," and notices a spring wind which sends cherry blossoms whirling into the air. he pauses for a moment, then continues talking on his cell phone.

again, he said he didn't understand what the poem was "about," so i said the first thing he should do is get a dictionary to look up words he didn't understand. he looked up "patron" and "petulant" and "indignities." i think he really liked it when i told him that figuring out a poem was like trying to do detective work, or solve a puzzle. he seemed genuinely interested in that part. i even made reference to walle-e, even though i wasn't sure where i was going with that one. but once i became didactic, bordering on overkill, asking, "is talking on your cell phone, and watching tv all day, and playing wii, and listening to your ipod really living?" he answered with an unenthusiastic, "no."

spoken like a true poet.

2 comments:

ms.meggie said...

i <3 sam.

sunset rubdown said...

this one's for meggie, this one's for sam!