“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” ~ Fred Rogers
Grace & Salome: I Have To Tell You Something
Episode Five: The Garden of Your Mind
The way these little podcasts work is that in the course of a week Grace or I find something interesting. We send it to each other but we don’t discuss it until we record. We do this for a couple reasons. First, both Grace and myself have a tendency to be too serious if we think too much and while serious has a place, it’s not in a five minute podcast that we’re doing for fun. Second, we are trying to capture honest reactions and speak the way we do to one another as friends, as opposed to the way we speak when we’ve measured our ideas and are presenting them to outsiders. Grace, being a grown up, is better at tempering herself on the fly. Which is why I often sound like a five year old and she…doesn’t.
My intention was to talk about how interesting it was to me that PBS had done this because I think of re-mixing as a medium that appeals to short-attention-span-theater people, and most PBS fare, especially the old shows, are not for people who are quick on the clicker. So the motivations and promotional concept interested me.
What happened is that Grace completely derailed me, and once derailed, continued to drag me kicking and screaming off the tracks. Which is something we both do to one another in general conversation on a daily basis, but it’s odd to have it committed to recording.
It’s hard to know how other people perceive things, and because I was a solitary child without a lot of peer interaction, I am often surprised when people have views on common experiences that differ greatly from mine. The idea that someone could find Mister Rogers “creepy” honestly never occurred to me before, and if I’m truthful, even now I have a hard time getting my head around it.
There is no way to put into words the deep, powerful feelings I have for a man I never met and who I only watched on television as a child, or to put reasons to it. Perhaps because the gentle, deliberate way that he spoke reminded me of the members of my own family that I most loved and respected. Or perhaps I was a creative and questioning child and he was third party confirmation that everything creative and emotional was natural. But when I think about the earliest formative parts of my identity, I cannot help but acknowledge how much Mister Rogers influenced me.
Like Roald Dahl, Fred Rogers understood that the imagination was a place of light and dark, and often the things we imagine as children are confusing and not-so-nice. In the Disney and made-for-tv versions of stories, the dark parts of the fairy tales are mostly airbrushed away, but the questions those stories provoke aren’t always as doe-eyed. Mister Rogers said it was natural to be afraid, to be angry, to wonder, and offered solutions on what to do with those feelings and how to process them. He did so by being calm, gentle, and playful. The choices he made in his speech were deliberate. He rarely said “mankind” but generally said “humankind.” He focused on the internal and the mental. He showed us how crayons were made. And, despite the fact that he was a minister, I cannot remember ever feeling influenced toward God or religion by him. Being a good person and a moral person was not presented as something to do with faith; he made a case for those behaviors on their own merits. Given today where so much children’s programming takes the easy out, I still find that to be an amazing choice.
As an adult we often come to realize that our childhood idols had feet of clay. Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny are corporate symbols that are almost single-handedly holding American copyright law hostage. Walt Disney was an anti-union Nazi sympathizer with Red Scare issues. Shel Silverstein was an absentee father. Superman committed suicide.
I’m sure Fred Rogers had human flaws, but he seems to have been an incredibly sincere person who was much the same on his show for children as he was in life; “Mister Rogers” was not a character and I think that came through to me as a child. You’ve only to watch him testify before Congress in 1969 to understand how genuineness, calm, and kindness can affect the world in positive ways. Fred Rogers never seemed ashamed to feel or express care. No part of him seems to worry about making a fool of himself for speaking intelligently from the heart.
Yes. I understand the irony of telling Grace I will find her and take her out if she keeps insulting Mister Rogers. He would likely prefer me to do something else with the mad that I feel.
But, honestly, Fred. The wench deserves it.
Series Note: Several years ago, Grace suggested we do a podcast together. I made a website and everything. Then we both realized we didn’t have the time and we both hated the sounds of our speaking voices. But the idea seems like fun now, so this new feature will be mirrored both here on SalomeSays and on Grace’s Phasing Grace blog (although mine will likely be posted earlier because Grace has a grown up job). We’re shooting for one each Tuesday on lighthearted but geek-crucial topics. We are also shooting for 2-5 minute podcasts, but are happy when it just stays under ten. I am working with a therapist to learn to not yap like a purse dog and take a breath so Grace can have a turn to speak. There may need to be some sort of electroshock involved.