Reflecting on people you idolize(d), part 2

I realized shortly after my previous post about my grandfather went up yesterday that I had made a pretty major mistake in the tone of the writing. I want to clarify, shortly, just what I was trying to say (and what I wasn’t trying to say), so that I can put my conscience to rest. Watch out, though: this is going to be a numbered list.

  1. My grandfather did his best to provide for his family. This point got kind of lost in the discussion. I know that this hurt his relationships with that family at various points, but he was doing what he knew to provide for them.
  2. He was a devoted grandfather to me. I don’t want to undermine this aspect of his legacy. The time we spent on the golf course was foundational for me, and I still appreciate all of the time he spent with me and the things we did together.
  3. My realization was about his cultural identity, not his personal life. Because my idealization of him was as a scholar and highly cultured person, realizing that his tastes were decidedly middlebrow undermined this view. This was the main point of my post. It’s not that Glen Miller is not worth listening to – I still love Glen Miller – or that popular works of history are not worth reading, just that they’re not the pinnacle of culture or scholarship that I always imagined them to be.
  4. Though I aspire to “highbrow” culture sometimes, I’m decidedly “middlebrow” myself. As much as I made it sound like I have a fantastic jazz education and read a whole host of erudite books, I’m firmly entrenched in middlebrow culture myself. I find a good deal of “good jazz” unlistenable (too complicated or amelodic for me), and several of the books I have been reading for my classes in grad school feel way, way over my head. I’ll probably do a post on my fear of being found out as a middlebrow person at some later date, and my attempts to cover this perceived weakness with a veneer of highbrow culture.
  5. This realization was about me, not him. Though I seemed to frame it like he was letting me down somehow, this is not how I feel. This was me realizing that I knew nothing about highbrow culture and that my experiences of it caused me to reevaluate him in this new light.

I hope these points make it more clear what I was trying to say. I’ll try to be clearer about what I’m getting at next time. 


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