I had two experiences recently that tested my finely honed perspective on life, namely that if just one of my kids were an engineer, I could relax a little.
What struck me during the interviews of the final four candidates was the passion they all expressed for the arts.
I like to think of myself as a writer, but have found lately that I possess the very common view that it’s good to be able to make a living, a persuasion that has dimmed my embrace of the arts as a career.
For me, it’s a practical matter. My oldest son is a photographer. My oldest daughter plans to save the world. My youngest son is about to enter college to study philosophy or poetry, with a minor in music. (I admit that the first time we discussed it, I rolled my eyes.) My youngest daughter is fantastic at drawing and painting.
When we asked the candidates for dean about their own beliefs, they made it clear that they see the arts as vital to humanity. Without irony or self-consciousness they laid out the case that art makes the world livable. We might make money, we might all live in big Colonials, but if we had no art, we would have no souls.
I was impressed – but I’ve still got the four kids …
At about the same time, my younger son was finishing a year-long senior project at his high school. He chose poetry as his subject, and in addition to posting several poems on his blog each month, entering contests and hosting a poetry slam, he organized a poetry writing contest for the first- through fifth-grades.
He visited several classes to talk directly to students and encourage them to enter the contest. The culmination was a reception and display of all the submitted poems, which he had read and critiqued with encouraging comments.
Afterward, my son heard from a fifth-grade teacher. She wrote that one of her students, a boy, had been unfocused most of the semester and was not doing well in class. Recently, though, things started to click for him and he had improved dramatically in all his subjects.
She figured out a way to ask him what was different and he said, “I really liked it when that high school senior came in to talk about poetry. I found out I like to write.”
OK, I get it. Art did that.
And I’m happy, truly, that my kids are going to help the rest of us understand the joy and beauty of life.