The other night, I took my girls to the ballet. My littlest is a natural-born dancer--she leaps and pirouettes around the house all day. So I thought she might enjoy seeing the real thing in the magical New York City Ballet Theater at Lincoln Center. Little did I know that I would also be taking the girls to see a real-life (not "reality") fight over texting.
Yes, in the capital of civilized behavior, the two couples in front of us almost came to fisticuffs over a woman texting with her babysitter during the intermission to see if the kids at home were OK. Well, the husband didn't help much. He called the offended couple stupid and told them to "shut up or he'd take their picture and post it on Facebook and Twitter." (Little did he know that he had a blogger sitting right behind him! Ha!)
To be honest, my girls and I were giggling. My teenager was also texting at that moment, and I had just gotten done taking pictures with my iPhone. The whole theater was aglow with lit-up mobile devices. It was, after all, intermission.
But what bothered me the most was the disparity between the event and the behavior. My 5-year-old was behaving better than either couple...and it was way past her bedtime!
It made me think: What makes people behave so poorly? And where do we learn our behavior? Religious people might say we should learn our behavior from church, but that doesn't take into account all the horrible hypocrisy that often accompanies religion--whether it's pedophilia or the fear of homosexuality and the promulgation of racism and misogyny, as in the burning at the stake of women accused as witches. No, religion is not the place to learn how to behave.
It could be from TV. Those I know who are in the industry proclaim that people need a "candy coating" of bad behavior in order to enjoy watching stuff. But bad behavior was invented long before TV, so maybe TV is more like our mirror.
I'm sure parenting has a lot to do with it, too. We all model the behavior we see closest to us, thanks to mirror neurons.
Ironically, the best and most popular ballets are really about love. Everyone gasps with pleasure the most when it's just two people in the passionate dance of intimacy and desire.
Love is simple. Love is complex. Love is easy and oh-so hard. But the best love comes from within and radiates joy, respect, and pleasure to everyone around you. Sometimes I think that's our real job on this earth--really learning how to love, and listening to that voice to the exclusion of all others. And that voice of love is, I think, where music originates, and what inspires the desire to dance. Love is what makes people willing to treat ALL people with honor and respect.
THAT's the behavior I want to model for my children. That's the dance I want to dance and the song I want to sing. Maybe I'll even text them about it!
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com
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