A few weeks ago, my son, Julian was written up in the Oregonian for a cooking show that he created. At first I was able to keep up with the comments on the site, and various other blogs that linked to it, but when it was posted on AOL and Yahoo’s homepages it became difficult to digest and respond because of the sheer quantity. Through this opportunity to interface with others who I might never have had the chance the experience has clarified a few things for me.
Yesterday we read through Julian’s emails with a map in hand to see where they were coming from. (There were 107 in the inbox when we checked yesterday. Hah! He always complained before “Mama, how come I never get any email?”) Many young people, many parents with children, and a few older people as well who said that watching Julian’s show inspired them to go out and make their own cooking show, or to take on some other task that has been of interest to them. These emails delighted me because I felt there were others out there who truly heard and understood Julian‘s intent and who shared an understanding of what this was all about.
As to why he made a cooking show, Julian expressed his intent to me, and to the reporter very clearly, “I wanted to have fun.” Those who think he did it to entertain the public, to create fame or fortune, to please others, to put out a quality cooking show on a national network, or to garner coos of affection will be sorely disappointed.
Others referred to him as “cute”, “a genius” or a “prodigy” or expressed disappointment that he didn’t meet those standards. They seemed to think that the real draw to this video was that Julian is a small, young person doing something that is somehow incongruous to his age. Or that he was somehow exceptional, or claiming to be.
In fact, Julian was doing what all of us have the power to do: decide something is interesting and try it out. This is not an exceptional skill. Everyone can do this. I am equally inspired by Julian’s choice to wear red pants, or to stay up till 11 p.m. as by the cooking show (though the latter was a bit more work for me).
There were many others who were very concerned for his safety (using kitchen tools, hot stove, standing on a chair, etc.) or his lack of a formal education. I too share a concern for health and safety, and I respect the hard work it takes in many cases to collect a degree, certificate or title. Of greater importance to me, however, is the protection of the innate sense that we all have to seek out what we need, and to protect ourselves from danger. In a real crisis situation, regardless of how many safety features we have installed, or how many degrees we hold it is our presence of mind and connection with ourselves and others that keeps us safe.
For those of you left disappointed, who came looking for something that you didn’t find, perhaps there is still something that you can use: that we are all beings with great potential, empowered to make our own decisions and write our own stories. Go make something in your kitchen. Or go make your own tv show. Don’t worry if you make a mess or if it doesn’t taste good. Clean it up and try again. Or at very least, if something is boring and wastes your time, go find something more meaningful.
PS. For those who are curious, TVP stands for textured vegetable protien. It is available at Bob’s Red Mill.