A meme is an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person, generation to generation within a culture.
Lately I have thought about whether we as a society are still able to pass down culture to our children. I mean, I don’t come from another country, speak another language, or have a strong cause to believe in. I’m just plain old me. And I wonder, as a parent, do I have a strong enough influence over my children to pass something down to them? Am I capable of preserving my memes?
First of all, I should point out that memes are sort of like genes, except genes are automatically passed down, very easily, through childbirth. I look at the faces of my children and I say, “Yup, that was easy … looks just like me, they’ve got my genes!” Passing down my memes, not as easy. Passing down memes is not automatic. Memes must be taught, experienced, learned, demonstrated, and valued. Passing down memes takes effort.
Are parents putting forth the effort to pass them down? Right now it seems like the influence of technology is stronger than a parent’s influence in attempting to pass down culture.
Children idolize their computers, televisions, and iTouch as the, “Wise Ones” who will pass down wisdom and knowledge and spread culture. I appreciate the global connection and closeness such devices have given us to the outside world, but what about the world within our own homes and communities? Parents need to win back the power over these devices that spread the dominant meme of, “buy and consume.” Parents be warned! Memes should not be about, what is bought, used, and consumed.
As a result, I fear that a loss of passing down our cultural memes might be lost. Therefore, I have decided to make a conscious effort to pass along my memes with my own two hands.
I have thought long and hard about what I have to offer my children on this subject of passing down my memes. What do I consider important to pass down?
I sat with my daughters the other night and we made a list of some memes that were passed down as we performed together in a musical theater show. The recent experience of performing together was definitely fun and brought us closer together. But it was also an opportunity for me to pass down some memes.
Simplistic as they are, they are mine. And now they are our memes …
1.) The spotlight operator has the best seat in the house.
2.) Every night is opening night.
3.) Not everyone laughs at the same jokes.
4.) The youngest and the oldest actors are all important.
5.) Actors can move furniture just as well as crew.
6.) A cast becomes an extended family.
7.) Sometimes you have to say goodbye to people you really like.
8.) It is better to let your talent speak for itself, not tell others about your talents.
9.) Thank your audience for coming at curtain call, you wouldn’t have a show without them.
10.) It feels good when the conductor smiles at you.
11.) Other people are counting on you.
12.) Don’t eat a large ice cream before a performance …
13.) You don’t have to be the star to enjoy the process.
14.) Performing is a form of sharing.
15.) Trust people, trust the story.
16.) Check your props. And then check them again.
17.) Costumes, wigs, makeup, and actors are codependent.
18.) Some of the best memories “on stage,” happen backstage.
19.) Listening is equally important as speaking.
20.) Engaging in serious leisure with your children/mom is priceless.
What can you share that comes from your own two hands? What story do your calluses tell about your memes? Do you build, repair, stroke, practice, tinker, assemble, take apart? Do you devote yourself to something? Do you celebrate a team and honor them with a parade? Can you identify peaks, valleys, stars, flora, fauna, species, notes, musicians, genres, or titles? Whatever it is you are passion about can be passed down. With your own two hands. Pass down your memes.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996) Creativity: The psychology of discovery and invention. HarperPerennial: NY;NY