, Salem, MA


March 18, 2014

Watson: Our past and our views can blind us

Oftentimes, age brings wisdom. As we get older, sometimes we become better able to bring patience and perspective to life’s situations and to people.

The older we get, the more experiences we have had, the more people we have met, the more observations we have made, and the more pain and joy we have felt. If we have been attentive and inquisitive — and maybe a little analytical — as we age, we probably have learned a great deal.

If we have valued personal growth and been diligent and unflinching about identifying our foibles, we may have developed competencies in both the intellectual and emotional realms. If we are really lucky, we have learned how to balance and blend the rational and emotional spheres and know how and when to appropriately let one modify the other, and vice versa.

That’s the theory, and sometimes it’s the practice. Oftentimes, however, it is not.

I just read a terrific novel, “My Name Is Asher Lev,” that brought home to me — once again — how difficult it can be to navigate powerful personal experiences.

The book, by Chaim Potok, was published in 1972 to wide acclaim. It is the story of a young Jewish boy, Asher Lev, born in 1943 in Brooklyn into a conservative Hasidic family. His father is especially observant and reverent toward Judaism, and the family adheres strictly to the dress, rituals, rhythms and events of Hasidic life.

From an early age, Asher shows unusual sensitivities to the Hasidic and other worlds around him. Although he is indifferent to school and studying, he is passionate about drawing. He sees the colors, textures, depths, shadings and meanings of everything around him and is captivated by sketching it all. By age 10, he has traded his pencil for oils.

Increasingly, as he moves into his teens, painting consumes him. He feels driven to paint, driven to express on the canvas his feelings about people, places, objects and events. He is gifted in skill.

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