26 July, 2015

Anthropology and Me

It's interesting what can serve to teach us in our lives if we let it.

A few weeks ago, it would have been my mother's 85th birthday.  I woke up that morning with an unfamiliar sadness and grief response.  Mom has been gone for eight years, so most of my grieving responses had run its course. But I felt her 'with me' more than usual and I really missed her.

That day, I had to facilitate a memorial service and the very first song the pianist played as prelude music to the service was "Clair de Lune" my mother's very favorite piece of music.  Then at Sunday service the next day, the first song that the guest soloists sang, "I Will Remember You" by Sarah MacLachlan. It happened to be the music I used to underscore mom's memorial video.

"I will remember you

Will you remember me?
Don’t let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories
I’m so tired but I can’t sleep
Standin’ on the edge of something much too deep
It’s funny how we feel so much but we cannot say a word
Though we are screaming inside oh we can’t be heard
I will remember you
Will you remember me?
Don’t let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories
I’m so afraid to love you, but more afraid to loose
Clinging to a past that doesn’t let me choose
But once there was a darkness, deep and endless night
You gave me everything you had, oh you gave me light
That I will remember you
Will you remember me?
Don’t let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories."

Duly noted.

Of late, I have been indulging myself in the anthropological study known as the cable TV series, "Mad Men".  I did not watch the show when it was airing for its seven seasons.  Although I tried, the first time I watched one of the early episodes, I never made it all the way through because I was put off by the amount of smoking --albeit very true to the timeframe and culture--that took place. My mother began smoking when she was nine and despite being diagnosed with COPD, she continued until she reached hospice. Whereas, I, on the other hand, was extremely sensitive to smoking and abhorred it.   Fast forward to 2015 when the season finale episodes were announced, I decided to activate our Netflix account and see what all the hoopla was about.  After all, critics and fans alike kept giving it rave reviews and I was curious.

Viewing this series has been informative, seductive and offensive.  I find that I often finish viewing an episode and I feel disconcerted; yet, I keep ordering up more DVD's to my queue.

Of course, the scripts are skewed to show certain aspects of both the advertising industry during the 60's and the cultural generation of that time.  However, the attention to detail and tone is what haunts and attracts me.

For example, the GE toaster that was used in one kitchen scene was the exact toaster my grandmother had. It was the best toaster oven ever manufactured and it lasted long after she had passed it on to me.   I began to understand more of what seemed to drive the adults around me in regards to music, style and interests. Kudos to the set designer and the costumer for authenticity and dimension of how they embellished what the writers and directors offer us within the "Mad Men" series.

The lesson part in this personal sociological study is that I am getting a glimpse--not always a pretty one--into the culture and mindset from which I was raised as a kid.  The misogyny, the naiveté, the ignorance, the innocence, the audacity, the indulgences, the inequities, the behavior that so influenced me during my generation.

The episode that I knew would have to come did in season three when Kennedy was assassinated.  Anyone who was alive at that time has lived through scads of replays, reviews, films and commentaries about the event almost to the point of immunity.  However, I had never seen this perspective from an adult's POV.  I was a kid when it happened and I grew up along with the country as it unfolded into history. Watching this teleplay's depiction offered me a different insight into the understanding of the impact on the day that our generation's Camelot was killed.

Right or wrong, good or bad-- woven into the fabric of my being are facts and fables of my generation that have unconsciously helped to craft much of who I am today.  I don't really mirror or match any of the lead characters, but some of their values and expectations have had residual effects on my adulthood.  I long for the arches of my youth.

Even in a random Facebook post one can often find a key to unlocking those arches. Someone posted a short video that provided me with further understanding as to the influences that shaped the person I am today.  My current sense of humor was molded in my youth by the likes of animator and writer, Chuck Jones; and later on "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and "Saturday Night Live". (Since this eight-minute documentary provided me with such glee, I feel obliged to offer you this link as for your own amusement.)

What an amazing time we live in that I can indulge in such palaver and perspective to review and reflect what has become my personal history.   Now if our advanced technology could only afford make possibly a way by which to have my mother alive today so I could share these insights.   I would ask her about those 'things' in life that just don't add up until the years add up and one arrives at maturity.  I would ask her how without the luxury of the internet or cable television was she able to make sense of life as she knew it.  And then I would just turn off all of my electronic devices and I would just listen. . . to her.

City Slackers

No, I did not misspell the title of this post. Yes, I was playing off of the comedy film title, "City Slickers" about a bunch of...