Friday, June 25, 2010

Video Biographies: "What's the point?"

I had a wonderfully stimulating conversation with a wonderfully accomplished lady a few days ago. I have always admired the kind of person who devotes her own time and money to make the lives of others better, and well, this lady was one of those! Overwhelmed by the selflessness of the nature of her work, I spontaneously offered to create a complimentary video biography for her. She seemed to like the idea and her first reaction was to suggest using the video as an informational tool about her organization. Maybe upload it on to the official website and attract more members? I abruptly realized that even though she understood I was a 'video biographer', it didn't quite translate the same way in her mind that it did in mine. So I proceeded to explain.

"The focus of the video biography would be more on you and your life - rather than solely on your professional accomplishments."

"I get it," said she.

"So I'll be asking you questions to help you revisit your life from childhood onwards. What was it like to grow up where you did? What was it like to be young in a world your children would find hard to recognize as the same as theirs? Growing up, going to college, getting married... you know, offering your children the opportunity to hear how you used to be at their age. To learn about the journey your life has taken to arrive at this present day moment."

I could see from the look on her face that these questions were changing her perception of a video biography. She still seemed excited by the thought but it was now for different reasons. We talked through all the doubts in her mind - apprehension of being in front of the camera, doubts about how the conversation may not be interesting, skepticism regarding the wisdom of telling a stranger the story of one's life etc. In the end, she seemed satisfied and we parted ways.

A day later, she told me she had changed her mind. I wasn't going to force someone to document their life experiences or see the merit in doing so, but I was curious. What was holding her back? What downside could there possibly be to creating one's legacy? Had I mentioned it was going to be complimentary?

"I don't see the point in it," she replied. "At least with the video about my organization I know other people will watch it and learn more about what we're trying to achieve through it. But with a video just about my life... what's the point?"

I wished she would go through the experience as there was no doubt in my mind that the point would become amply clear once she did. At the same time, I don't quite think the value of it eluded her grasp. She wasn't ready. And there was nothing I could do to change that. So I nodded my head and hoped fervently that her children have good memories. That they committed to their heart every nuance about her that they loved and cherished... so that they are able to pass it on to their children. And the children after that. So that they will one day know that Grandma was so much more than just that.


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