Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cloning Ourselves

I include PR among the many things that I do at Orot. (In Israel, it pays to be a jack of many trades). So, when the film department brought in a film maker named Shoshi Greenfeld to speak to the students about her recently released documentary, I went to take a picture and ended up seeing part of her film and listening to some of her interesting talk. To see a short clip of her film, click here.
In the film, one of her cousins has a baby boy, and she notes an interesting question: why did God create us in such a way that we're born, live a relatively short life and then die? Why did He not just give us each eternal life? The answer she gave was that each of us becomes stuck in our own ways. We tend to find a certain set of values that become entrenched and unchanging. Yet, each new child brings something new to the equation; something different and creative, and it's that newness that moves the world forward.
Shoshi emphasized this point in her discussion of the movie, "The Wayward Son", which is about a young man who struggles over whether to enter the IDF after watching the disengagement from Gaza. She feels strongly that people should follow their inner guide - and not succumb to external pressure to conform to what society expects of us.
Yet, Shoshi's discussion and film raised an interesting question in my mind: on one hand, we do want our children to be unique and different. We want them to excel in their own ways and use their own special talents to make their mark on the world. But do we educate them to that end? Truth be told, we educate (and by "we" I'm talking about "me") our children to be clones of ourselves; we send them to educational institutions that model our personal religious attitudes. We expect them to study both Torah and secular subjects (as we did), and make choices that we would. And when they lean in a direction that makes us uncomfortable, we use our parental powers of persuasion to steer them back on the "right" path. Rare is that parent truly open to his or her children choosing a totally different path in life.
If so, where's the line between conformity and creativity? At what point does a parent stop nudging a child to conform, and allow the child to find his or her own way?
This isn't one of those "easy answer" questions, but rather one that I imagine will continue to gnaw at me as our children grow and develop.