Last week I had a most pleasant earworm, the Hollies He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother. I’ve written about this song before, and the important thing for the sake of this post is that when I was eight years old, I was obsessed with this song and played the 45 over and over on my little plastic record player. I still revere the Hollies and that song, though to be honest, He Ain’t Heavy is the kind of schmaltzy song (all those strings) that would make me cringe as an adult.
So, with that song playing in the background of my head, I started thinking about an email exchange I had with playwright and friend of A Life’s Work, John Yearley about a film that floored him, Ashes & Diamonds. The film is great, make no mistake, but I wasn’t as moved as John was. It made me think of a John Landis quote, “Everything about a movie … is who you are and where you are when you saw it.”
Who was I when I was obsessed with that Hollies song? I remember the thing that struck me about it was “my broth-er-errrr.” Lyrics rarely initially lured, melody and rhythm grabbed me first, then the lyrics (this is still the case). But I remember feeling this deep deep love for my older brother while listening to that song, and though I couldn’t articulate it at the time, I believe I had an epiphany centered around the idea of “brother.”
Soon after connecting these two dots, I came across this interview with Jill Tarter.
Here’s the text:
As a child, astronomer Jill Tarter would walk along the beaches of western Florida with her father and look up at the stars.
“I assumed, at that time, that along some beach on some planet, there would be a small creature walking with its dad and they would see our sun in their sky, and they might wonder whether anyone was there,” she tells Fresh Air‘s Dave Davies. “But I never thought about it professionally until graduate school.”
I’m probably extrapolating more than I should, but what I find really fascinating about this is that in both cases, the epiphanies involve a realization that there is something beyond one’s self. But with Tarter’s it’s a bit more than that. She was wondering about a doppleganger. On another planet. Orbiting another sun. Wondering about the existence of her!
As mindblowing as this is I don’t think it’s uncommon. I think many children think such things. But not many keep that wonder burning into adulthood.
I’m fascinated by the moments of wonder we experience, big and small, as children and as adults, and how those moments can lead to life decisions. Or a life’s work.
Would you care to share yours? I’d love to hear about it.