The music was fading from a PBS program on The Best of the Boston Pops orchestra. I had my hand on the remote to change the station when I heard a familiar voice. It was Mr. Rogers, decked out in his favorite blue zippered sweater, singing:
“Did you ever grow anything in the garden of your mind? You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind. It is good to be curious about many things. You can think about things and make believe. All you have to do is think, and they’ll grow.”
I grabbed a pen and took down the words. As often happens, I had come across something that synched with an idea that had been swirling in my mind for weeks.
But first, a word about Mister Rogers. Fred Rogers was a puppeteer and ordained minister who became the creator, host, and writer of the TV program Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. The PBS TV series, aimed primarily at explaining life to pre-schoolers, ran from 1967 to 2008. His degree in music composition prepared him to write 200 songs for the show, including the theme, It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Rogers was honored with numerous awards and accolades for his dedication to children via television. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a welcome relief for years in my household from life on the much-loved but frenetic Sesame Street.
Fred Rogers’ lyrics were a sweet encouragement to my information-junkie-self. In a moment of self-doubt, I recently posed this question to my husband: “Why am I so keen in learning new things when I’m nearly 73 years old?” I had just shared with him that the stents he is about to have put in his legs and hips are made from a nickel alloy that can be formed into one shape, bent into another and then, with the proper heat returned to the original shape. BBC had answered one of my decade-old questions: “How do they get stents in arteries?” I was excited; he was not real impressed. (His lack of interest may be because it was 4:00 a.m. In my defense, he was already awake when I started to shared it.)
Other things I have learned in the past two weeks:
- Outer space smells like seared steak or hot metal.
- John Williams never conducted an orchestra before he was hired as director of the Boston Pops Symphony.
- Inventive computers gurus creating not only “wearables” but also “disappearables:” a computer chip the size of a grain a sand which, after being swallowed, will monitor the state of your gut and contact lenses are being developed which can measure blood sugar.
- The Wright brothers did not invent the first flying Machine; they invented the first controllable flying machine. They proved this machine’s worth by doing figure eights and circles above the skies at Le Mans, France.
- Monarch butterflies love milkweed; farmers and landscapers are bent on destroying milkweed.
- Amy Winehouse, English singer-songwriter who died at 27 from accidental alcohol poisoning, became bulimic in her early teen-years and often asked her parents help; they thought she would grow out of it.
Lately, I have been bemoaning my intense interest in the world around me, wondering what I will do with all the bits and pieces that I keep adding to the “garden of my mind.” But Mr. Rogers has given me “permission” to continue to be “curious about many things.” I will cultivate the garden in my mind as it grows and blossoms with unusual bits of information. Everyone once in a while those buds come together to form an exciting new bouquet.
Image of Mr. Rogers by PBS Digital Studios YouTube channel; learning image from turkishcampus.net
On the subject of Fred Rogers and spiritual formation I was profoundly affected by the book I’m Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers by Tim Madigan.
Thanks, Craig. I’ll add it to my reading list
I love this and am right there with you – in a lesser way, but I love learning now more than I did in school. Thanks for being vulnerable – I appreciate it greatly.