Monday, February 28, 2011

Playing God

We people pick up our habits like we pick up souvenirs from the places we visit. I have a favorite beer even though I don’t drink beer. I picked up the taste from a friend who told me why it was the best. I was in no position to argue.

My favorite cars, my favorite food, my favorite sayings and the things I’m passionate about are all things I randomly collected from birth to now. So I suppose you could say we people are self-built.

My wife and I took our 7-year-old son to the park to play with friends the other day. We brought along our pet dog.

“Beagles are great family dogs,” said my son’s friend, who knew everything there was to know about canines, including the type of pet we owned. “My dog bible says that beagles are very playful, but not suited for apartment living.” Good thing we don’t live in an apartment.

This girl went on to explain the entire history of the beagle breed.

Another friend pointed to a plane passing by overhead.

“It’s a Southwest plane,” he shouted with great excitement. “A Boeing 737. The seats are really comfortable, but KLM Airlines is much roomier -- they have Boeing 747s.”

The kid told us the differences between various other airlines and plane types, including the fact that “the cabin in the Airbus A330 is the highest in its aircraft class.”
My wife and I were amazed by the knowledge these 7-year-olds possessed. I turned to my son -- he was scooping sand from the sandbox to the pavement for no particular reason.

“We have to find a super skill for our kid,” I told my wife. “What do you think it should be?”

“Don’t you think our son should decide?” she said.

“We’ve given him 7 years,” I replied.

“I thought you always said people are self-built.”

“We are,” I answered. “I’m just gonna start controlling what’s around him; influence him.”

“Oh, so you’re going to play God?”

“No,” I said. “I’m not creating our son. I’m just gonna give him some touches.”

After a long talk about how manipulating our boy was wrong, I told my wife I wouldn’t go through with my plans. Then I retired to our home office to think up a super skill I could teach the kid under the radar. Hmmm.

“Daddy,” my son called from outside the office. “Are you watching film noir again?”

That was it. I’d already started teaching the kid about cinema. Now I’d teach him everything about film like his friends know everything about dogs and planes. I’d show those fools who really had the super skill. Ah, ha ha ha!

While Mommy was gone, my son and I watched film after film, side by side with the accompanying scripts. We discussed story act breaks and character arcs, and we analyzed thematic meanings. Upon repeat viewings, we broke down lighting schemes and covered camera lens properties.

“But, Daddy, what is a ‘film movement’?” he asked when we got into the history of narrative film.

“You know, like French New Wave, German Expressionism, Italian Neo-Realism . . .”

“Oh,” he said. “So would the Hollywood ‘Golden Age of Cinema’ Studio System be considered a film movement? And is that separate from 70s Personal Cinema, like what spawned from the filmmakers who came up under Roger Coreman and American International Pictures?”

My son was on his way being “super.” But we still had a long way to go.

“What’s going on here?” Mommy asked when she caught us having a theoretical discussion about the introduction of sound to film.

“Mommy, did you know Charlie Chaplin was initially against ‘talkies’?” the boy said. “But me and Daddy understand why because the visual language of cinema went on a decline once sound came into the picture.”

Mommy would not be happy with me “playing God,” manipulating our boy like I did. It was curtains for me.

“Wow, how does he know all of that?” Mommy asked. And she stuck him on the phone with family and friends to show him off.

What had I done? I turned an innocent kid into a monster -- a freak. And my wife fed into it. Our boy was doomed. Those with super powers are always isolated, never understood, miserable.

“It’s okay, Daddy,” my boy said when he overheard me sulking to Mommy about how I messed up. “I don’t really love cinema anyway. I only got into it because I love you.”

I gave him a hug and the two of us went outside to play catch for the first time together. And that’s when I picked up a new habit -- baseball with my son.

-August 2010

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