Television is at its best, in my opinion, when it opens a window on something new or shines a spotlight on something artistic or presents great storytelling. For my mother, television is a primary source of information. She no longer reads newspapers and rarely reads magazines. TV is her source for national and local news; she doesn’t follow the ins and outs of pop culture. However, she does like history and science.
NOVA and Nature are two shows we regularly watch. They highlight topics that are new to us, that are creative if not artistic and that are incredible stories. I’m always amazed at how these shows draw us in. On NOVA, we end up watching stories about Samurai swords, black holes, spy gadgets, viruses and schools of the future – things that, on the surface, don’t seem to be high on our priority list. On Nature, we love seeing the animals strive to survive and the wilderness transform over the seasons.
Hagia Sophia: Istanbul’s Ancient Mystery was the most recent one we watched. What an amazing building and a fascinating application of science and technology, both old and new. While I enjoyed the program, my enjoyment was sweetened by watching my mother get excited about the topic – a building she had never heard of … or at least didn’t remember. She was completely engaged. The thing is, I have no expectation that she will retain any knowledge from the program – it is unlikely she will remember anything.
That she won’t remember will be frustrating for her, but it is, in some ways, inconsequential to me. She won’t be quizzed on Hagia Sophia or black holes any time soon and no one will seek her opinion on these or other topics. There is no reason she needs to retain the information. Actually, we have seen the Hagia Sophia program before … and she was just as amazed then as she was this time around. That to me is the take-home message, the key to the kingdom – being excited about learning something new, whether it’s technically new or not. I can see the mother I knew years ago, who loved to read and sought to understand the world through her own lens. It’s nice to know that that part of her brain still works just fine.
If she could build and store the memories somewhere, I guess that would be perfect. But, as the saying goes, perfection is overrated. If there is a choice between retention of random information and the excitement of learning, I’ll take the momentary victory of seeing her excited about learning something new or enjoying a great story.