Potter's Wheel

A ceramacist spinning clay on the wheel shapes an object. His/her skill and imagination determines the form. However, the clay imposes its own limits. So there is give and take. This might seem like a metaphor for parenting, but it would be a terrible one. Yes, we shape our children, especially when they are very young, but the whole point of parenting, I believe, is to shape children who can shape themselves. A ceramic vase will not shape itself. (No, we are not going to discuss John Keats today.) Maybe it was the story this morning on NPR about Peter Buffett and his new memoir that got me thinking about this. Warren Buffett did not give his children millions of dollars to lead lives of privilege. Based on the brief interview I heard, it seems like a wise decision: Peter Buffett sounds like a happy man, curious and enthusiastic. For his memoir he chose the not very imaginative title Life is What you Make It. I haven't read the book, but I'm guessing what he means to suggest with this title is not that you can be whatever you want to be, do whatever you want to do. Asun and I have tried to be a little more nuanced than that, and I imagine most parents do the same: you can aspire to anything. Want to be an astronaut? Go for it! But be ready to study really, really hard. You can't decide to be an astronaut (or chef, teacher, banker, ballerina, etc.) and it happens. Bad lesson! It might not happen. (Bill Durden spoke about this recently in a talk on leadership.) But you do get to "make your life" in that you are in control of its narrative. Know thyself? Define thyself? Polonius' advice to his son, to thine own self be true, can be read as sage counsel or a crass invocation of selfishness. Indeterminacy can be troubling. I see a bright side: the son determines meaning.

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