The Hope of Captain Kangaroo

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Terry Miller has a photographic memory.

I started working on this Hope Project years ago by talking with my childhood friend Terry Miller. I thought it would be easy to begin with someone I knew, someone close to me emotionally. What I found was how hard this discovery process is no matter how well you know the person, and maybe even harder when the person is close. I was trying to photograph him, talk to him, listen to his responses all at the same time, and afterwards I felt it a failure. It didn’t feel right intellectually and I didn’t think the photographs were good.

I didn’t listen to the recording of our talk until just the other day. What I found in that fragmented discussion was a gem. Terry has always spoken in streams of consciousness. He can mesmerize you. As I listened to the recording, I was able to slow down his rhythmic cadence and hear strong connections to other conversations where people had talked about their childhood. There is a running theme in this discovery of Hope that is about the innocence of children and the way they trust the world. It allows them the ability to hope with wonder and without the cynicism that comes with a certain kind of maturity.

Terry has the same photographic memory his mother was blessed or cursed with, depending upon how you look at it. As we talked he remembered his childhood (in detail). The comfort of his Grandmother’s lap, the strength of his father’s hands and the smells are all a part of the security he remembers that age embodying. He tossed off lines about cartoon heroes that inspired him, and the simplicity of the black and white TV. Terry suggested that even the consistency of the Captain Kangaroo show represented this comfort and security that allowed us to be hopeful.

And then he describes the life and death of JFK as “one of the most hopeful and yet hurtful and disappointing times in my life”. Is this a metaphor for the age of innocence dashed? It was a rude awakening for many , if not for all of us. How can we recapture the comfort and security of youth that brings us Hope. Meditation? Exercise? Spending more time with friends? Self-help workshops in Santa Fe?

Maybe it would be worth watching old reruns of Captain Kangaroo.

What is your suggestion?

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