Hello Film, What would You Like to Be?

“Hello, film of mine. What would you like to be when you grow up?”

My film looks at its shoelaces. “I don’t know,” he mumbles.

I wait. I’m working on this.

“I guess I’m not sure about all this stuff you talk about: me making a difference in the world, saving a river, or whatever.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Well, yeah, kind of.” He scratches his nose.

I wait. I’m not sure if I should watch him or spare him the scrutiny. I pretend to examine my fingernails. I look up. Then I feel guilty, like I’m leering. I return my gaze to my nails, wishing I could study him without being seen.

“Actually,” he says hopefully.

This gives me a chance to make eye contact. I smile, genuinely eager to hear what he’s actually going to say.

“I think I just want to tell my story. I mean I don’t even know what my story is, you know? I think I just want to live my life. Like, you know, just go forward and see what happens.”

My smile is warming the back of my neck. “Yeah, I think I know what you mean,” I say.

He’s studying me now, as if waiting for a retort. Or maybe he’s trying to figure out what I might be scheming by not saying more. I return his look, trying not to be any sort of a schemer. He glances back to his shoelaces.

“It’s just that,” he adds, “it seems kind of limiting to think too much about what I want to do, or be, when I grow up.”

“You know,” I offer, pausing for effect before pronouncing Socrates’ name as Bill and Ted would, “Soh-crates said ‘the unexamined life is unfit to live’.” I figure an Excellent Adventure reference will assure him I’m kidding, but he turns and walks away.

He returns moments later with my blue hardbound college thesis. He thumbs, remarkably fast, to an inset quote on a page near the very end. He reads:

“It seems as if Japan differs from the rest of the major traditions of the world, all of which would accept the Socratic dictum that ‘the unexamined life is unfit to live.’ Japan might even counter by saying that it is the examined life that is unfit to live, because it is not life.”

“What blow-hard quoted that in his thesis?”

He tosses the thing at me playfully. This kid knows me.

Thanks for reading. Cheers,

Photo by Matthew Whalen, DP of Power of the River

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