Most Americans, certainly, those who have reared children in the last 50 years, are familiar with the name, Fred Rogers, and his excellent children’s television program, “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.” With the assistance of a couple of small puppets and an occasional visitor, like the “Postman,” Rogers, in a loving and nurturing voice, not only taught children lessons in social interaction with each other, but, in his inimitable way, actually delivered important life lessons to his young audience. Besides, gently and subtly teaching self-esteem, independence, patience, optimism as well as appropriate interaction, he introduced them to the existence of an inner life. He had the instructive talent to teach the very young that confidence, self –respect, self- identity, sense of worth and personal value have their intrinsic existence, inside the person of the child (internally). Would that many adults, at long last, learn this fundamental and unassailable truth.
Fred Rogers wrote his own songs, one of which deserves special mention, because of its relevant message and its poignancy, titled “It’s You I Like.” We had an emotional reaction to seeing and hearing the replay of a video in which Rogers and a pitifully handicapped young boy, both sang it. A sample of some of the instructive and sensitive lyrics is as follows: “It’s you I like,” ”It’s not the things you wear” ”It’s not how you do your hair” “It’s not the way you look” “But it’s you I like” “The way you are right now” “It’s the way deep inside of you.” The experience, under the unique circumstances, was emotional, but nonetheless, eternally true.
The theme imbedded in the greater number of our blogposts, regardless of the subject selected, is identically the same; one’s feelings of identity, worth, moral architecture, self-fulfillment (happiness, success) are all internal, or as Rogers would put it, “inside.” True “success”, for example, has been proven, time and again, not to be based upon external evidence, viz., not dependent upon material accumulation but an internal sense of self fulfillment.
The other day we were, as usual, pleasantly reading in the park, under the cool shade of a tree. Nearby, oblivious of her surroundings, was a young woman, engaged in the concentrated activity of changing poses, while holding a smart-phone at arm’s length, with, what I understand is called, a “selfie stick,” clicking away. It is my understanding of such performances, that she was earnestly searching for a photo with which she would be satisfied; in other words, one closely conforming to her current fantasy about herself. It felt more sad than humorous. How many selfies will she have to take to satisfy her fantasy du jour. When will she, at last, find a shot that she deems acceptable (after deleting all the rest); will that photo really be the true “her”?
None of the “selfies” will be “you.” Any studious toddler-pupil of Mr. Rogers can tell you; you are inside. There is, obviously, nothing to criticize about the general activity of taking photos, selfies or not, for the fun of creating and saving familiar images as mementos. However, it should always be understood that it is the persona and internal self-image that describes you to yourself, and others, and not an ephemeral electronic image. If Mr. Rogers were still alive, and that young woman in the park was five years old, Fred would gently tell her that who and what you are, are “inside.”