My son & I attend a Rush concert

July 15 2010 Tom 4 724

This week, I had the pleasure of attending a rock concert with my son Eric who is now about to turn 15 and who has turned out to possess non-trivial interests and talents in music. The concert was by the band Rush who, to the uninitiated, would be yet another big, loud, over-produced rock band. But to a generation of technocrats (e.g. yours truly) educated from the late 1970’s and on, they are the band of choice due to an intriguing mix of musicianship, technological themes, and a tantalizing libertarian philosophy that resonates quite well with the Nerdorati. If you are under the age of 50, and your job title has any combination of the words System, Network, Engineering, Programmer, Analyst, Applications, Technical, and even Accountant, you’ve probably spent an awful lot of time trapped inside a pair of headphones listening to this band over the years. Rush was the band that made those of us who were not allowed to be cool, cool.

So my 30 year addiction to this band converged with Eric’s more recent discovery of the music, at this concert. And for an intense 3+ hours, we really did feel more like friends than a father-son combo. But this stuff really does dig a lot deeper. The style of music is technically complex, opening up a huge world of discussion and exploration for those of us with some interest in musical technique. For me, more importantly, their themes on self-esteem, the strength of the individual versus the tyranny of ad hoc collective  thinking, are wonderful contexts to discuss incredibly complex issues in a young person’s (or an old person’s) life. Not surprisingly, during our long drive home, we covered a lot of philosophical and personal territory on life, liberty, and the pursuit of faster computers ... though it was a bit of a struggle with our ears ringing and the stereo blaring out yet more Rush music. This is the band that drove generations of curious teenagers to pick up a copy of 1984, or Animal Farm, or Atlas Shrugged, when most of their friends were busy trying to figure out the dating situation for the prom. I can’t think of many catalysts that can trigger some of the most important thinking and reflection that a teenager can have as well as this band can.

There was a hidden agenda for me. Since so many of us in the technical fields are into this band, shouldn’t the reverse be true? If the kid becomes hooked, would whatever mysterious geist that commands this music draw an unsuspecting teenager into the technical fields? Or is it strictly a one-way function? Eric is showing all the signs of exceptional skills in many important fields ... but not the ones I was tagged with as a teenager. And secretly, though I do believe there are countless wonderful callings outside of technology and science, I’ve always hoped that there would be a couple of foot prints that I’ve left that would be appealing for him to follow.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter. The existentialist in me enjoyed the moment for its own sake. The libertarian in me believes that in the end, it’s his choice regardless of my opinion. And the Platonist in me hopes that life will sort itself out and his innate strengths will eventually dictate his destiny.  


A photo from the enchanted evening ... my apologies for the poor quality, but I’m sure that any of the better pics will violate some copyright law...

A somewhat pensive Eric prior to the show ... wearing my concert shirt from 1981 ... a stream of network administrators and number theory specialists make their way into the venue...

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