I was listening to NPR yesterday—an interview with Sir Tom Stoppard, screenwriter for the new Anna Karenina movie. When asked about the meaning of love he posed the question, “Are we born self-interested and we have to learn to be good? Or are we born selfless and merely corrupted by competition and institution?” I’m guessing there’s not any black or white answer to the question, though I was taught in my young religious days that we were born in total depravity with the need, of course, to be saved in an institution that just happens to make a lot of money off such doctrines—a truth that seems to belie the first argument in support of the second. And even looking to something like my own parenting, I find the dregs that betray the likelihood of corruption.
When my older son was five, he had a passion for Mary Poppins. He loved her magic, her command, her wisdom. He loved her clothes. So it wasn’t much of a surprise that on a fall afternoon some thirteen years ago, after closing the TV cabinet on the gazillionth viewing of the movie, he declared, “Mommy, I want to be Mary Poppins for Halloween.” Continue reading