This morning I reviewed and wrote short annotations on essays about the Scottish poet Robert Burns.
It occurred to me that in my mind, Robert Burns is a major cultural figure and phenomenon whose importance and interest far eclipses that of, say, Katy Perry or even World Cup soccer. I suspect that I’m increasingly in the minority there.
What’s interesting to me about this is not that I am culturally more or less knowledgeable than anyone else. Everyone makes their choices, though many people have to make them within a limited sphere, and I’m relativist enough to say that (for the most part) my choices are no “smarter” or “boring” than most others. What’s interesting to me is how we come to decide what is real.
To me, Robert Burns is real. And he has been since I first heard of him in my early teens. Bear Stearns, as my mind organizes information, is little more than a very bad fairy tale. What those people do to make money (mainly moving chits of paper around, so far as I can tell) is not real. The consequences for people outside of that world, sadly, are real, but that world is less real to me than a poem or novel.
So far as I know, I didn’t choose what would be real to me, or I did so at such a young age that I have no recollection of it, and I’m stuck with it regardless. As I watch my life go by, so many things pass through like ghosts, like translucent phantoms in the background whose whispers I hear faintly but not distinctly. Others are full, glorious color, calling to me directly, specifically seeking my attention.
How did this happen? I have the same background as a lot of people who find very different things to be “real,” and who find the things that are most alive to me to be frivolous, even—worse—dead.
And how does this happen for our kids?
Can homeschooling be a place where our kids, especially as they get older, can hear and respond those things that are alive to them and waving frantically for their attention? Or will it be a place where what is real is what I see, and everything else must be thin illusion? And if I want it to be the former, how will I give good guidance?
And I would like to know, what is real and unreal for you?