The First

The ChoiceHappy January 1st!

What does it mean for something or someone to be the first? I’ve been thinking about this question ever since I watched Hulu’s production “The First” this fall. It’s a drama about a manned mission to Mars, but the mission is itself only the framing device for the show. In fact, almost the entire eight-episode season takes place on Earth prior to lift-off. The show itself is sometimes philosophical and metaphorical to the point of abstraction. It’s bound to frustrate some viewers who find it too counterintuitive and confounding. But I believe that it takes a deep look at raw family/social relations and the evolution of our emotional selves. It includes honest, hard moments of inequity and exclusion; it showcases humans in all their flaws and all their aspirations. It got mixed reviews, but I like how this critic summarized his take on the show:

It’s a bit strange knowing you can’t wholeheartedly recommend a show to people who you’d think would be its ideal audience — fans of technically realistic space adventures that are either drawn from history or set so close to the present day that they barely qualify as science fiction — but congrats to The First for being, well, the first series to create such a conundrum. It’s not what I thought it was going to be, and I have no idea how it’ll be received or whether it’ll get additional seasons. But it moved and impressed me to the point where I didn’t particularly care if a given scene or story line was “working” or not. It has a pioneering spirit.

“Firsts” are often framed in our heads as those “moon-shot” moments tailor-made for PR releases and radio/TV pieces. We’ve had a good share of those moments at Gann – elements of our program and practice that gleam in the sunlight – and we should be proud of them and continue to foster them. But I also think about our individual “firsts” – how we encounter ourselves and grow in our work as professionals. I think about the “firsts” for our students – how they come to understand themselves and evolve in non-linear, unexpected fashions. Those moments are individualized, bumpy, and rather non-cinematic. They are often unheralded – and I think that’s a shame.

I wonder if we might shine a warm light on this ragged edge of human growth. If I have a New Year’s resolution, it is to celebrate the scattershot nature of human evolution, both within myself and in others. After all, a mundane move for one person is a risky moon shot for someone else.

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