One of my favorite films is Kiki’s Delivery Service by Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. It’s been in regular rotation since my daughters were young. The animated film follows the story of a young witch (Kiki) who, according to witch tradition, must leave her family for a year when she turns 13 and prove that she can make it on her own in a town that doesn’t have another witch. She moves to a small city, finds a room above a small bakery, and becomes a delivery girl for a bakery, flying breads and other parcels around town on her broomstick. Along the way, she makes friends, overcomes obstacles, and, in the movie’s climax, uses her powers in a daring rescue. A great movie.
Throughout the film, Kiki meets older girls and women who could serve as visions of her future self. A slightly older witch girl returning from her year on her own, a single woman living by herself and dedicating her life to art, a young mother running a bakery, an elderly grandmother…these and other women enter Kiki’s life at various points, offering potential previews of the directions that her life could take. Some of them are role models and mentors, while others simply present a particular way of life that Kiki may or may not want to pursue. As the movie proceeds, she also meets younger girls, who look up to Kiki herself as a potential role model and cause Kiki to see herself in a different light.
We need to see ourselves in a continuum of younger and older friends and acquaintances, in order to understand our place in life and in others’ lives. Kiki encounters these women and girls from different generations as she goes about her everyday work in the film’s fictional city. Do we have the same opportunity to meet people from generations before and after us? Continue reading Our Need for Other Generations→
First, no one can literally make himself. Even if your parents contributed nothing more than the biological material out of which you were formed, other people were involved in your life from your earliest days. Even if their involvement did more harm than good, it’s still part of who you have become.
Even if the figurative sense, however, I strongly dislike the idea of a “self-made man.” It diminishes the fundamental connections between ourselves and other human beings, especially those which have laid the groundwork for our own achievements. Frederick Douglass, in his lecture “Self-Made Men”, provides a definition of the term:
Self-made men […] are the men who owe little or nothing to birth, relationship, friendly surroundings; to wealth inherited or to early approved means of education; who are what they are, without the aid of any of the favoring conditions by which other men usually rise in the world and achieve great results.
I think this is how most people use the term: a person who owes his success to no one else.
Yet Douglass qualifies the concept of “self-making” by stressing the importance of relationships and the work of past generations:
It must in truth be said though it may not accord well with self-conscious individuality and self-conceit, that no possible native force of character, and no depth or wealth of originality, can lift a man into absolute independence of his fellow-men, and no generation of men can be independent of the preceding generation. (Emphasis added)