Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mister Rogers On "Deep & Simple"


As I mentioned, I'm in the process of re-launching Benjamin Wagner Dot Com, and in doing so have been re-reading and editing some five years and nearly 1300 posts. I just came across an entry dated February 27, 2003 -- the day Mister Rogers died.

I spent all day at work crafting my remembrance of him, then all night emailing it to The New York Times, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Nantucket Mirror, etc. The next morning, a half dozen emails thanked me for my efforts, empathized with my loss, but suggested that they had already published secured their reportage. (The Times, for example, tapped my now-pal, Davy Rothbart for a piece entitled "A Friend In The Neighborhood"). I remember wanting to blame my day job at MTV for missing a deadline that didn't actually exist.

None of which is my point.

Re-reading that post just now prompted me to find the The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from which I quoted Mister Roger' on "deep and simple."

After production of the program ceased, Mr. Rogers devoted his time to working on the "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" Web site, writing books and fulfilling long-booked speaking engagements. Even then Mr. Rogers often spent his mornings at his "writing office" away from the hustle and bustle of his Family Communications office. The older he got, the more he cherished silence, he said in spring 2001.

"You're able to be much more mindful of what is deep and simple and how essential that is, in order to keep on growing," he said. "And whatever our expression of care might be, whether it be television or the Internet or all of these books that the people want us to write -- whatever that expression is -- it must come out of the depth of understanding that we continue to nourish.

"Otherwise, you know it could get superficial. That's not going to happen with us."

A lot of things about this short passage interest me.

For starters, I often wonder if I dreampt the whole thing up. I mean, I know I met Mister Rogers; I have the photos and subsequent letters to prove it. But sometimes I wonder if he really said what he said. Or what, exactly, he meant.

The above quote, though, not only confirms that depth and simplicity was on Mister Rogers' mind, but also suggests it was very much in his thoughts at that time. The quote is from Spring 2001. I met him just a few months later.

Moreover, the quote suggestst that he himself was exploring deep and simple in a way that he hadn't before; the "cherished silence" of his retirement allowed it.

It's also worth noting that when I Googled part of his quote ("deep and simple and how essential that is"), I ended up with a page full of results on spirituality, democracy, meditation, breathing -- in short, all of the subjects we've tackled in "Mister Rogers & Me" (including, as it ends up, this very website).

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