November 23, 2017

Brotherhood 2.0

Though I don't have cable, my tv is still on for a number of hours in the evening. Through the magic (science) of apps and the little Roku box, I get to watch a lot of internet content on the big screen. There is of course Netflix and Hulu for movies and shows, but I now spend as much or more time watching YouTube videos. Some of the YouTube content is actually tv (nightly check-ins with Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers) so this is all starting to loop in on itself and the distinctions are sort of meaningless.

Much of the YouTube stuff is from individual creators though. Some people take me along while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (Homemade Wanderlust), while others are random people who had an idea that found an audience for a goofy show (My Drunk Kitchen, for example). That is the brilliance of an open internet and net neutrality. People can get their quirky, funny, brilliant, creative ideas out there without going through network executives or slipping Comcast some money so that people are allowed to find you. Call your congressman/woman.

The one YouTube channel that I enjoy the most is The Vlogbrothers. The channel was originally inspired by two brothers (John and Hank) wanting to get to know each other better. Yes, they grew up in the same household, but there was enough of an age gap that they didn't really grow up "together". They also now lived in different parts of the country, so they didn't see each other all that much.

The channel was created with the challenge to send each other a short video on alternate days on whatever topic crossed their mind. Each video opened with "Good morning Hank/John" and ended with "I'll see you on Tuesday, etc." Through daily contact, they wanted to create a better relationship while stretching their creative legs. The channel was originally titled "Brotherhood 2.0".

The channel is now ten years old. They are down to two videos a week, but they have kept building on this relationship while entertaining us along the way. Their videos are at turns funny, educational, deeply personal and nearly always worth the entire time spent watching them. I have spent many an evening falling down the rabbit hole of the internet as one video led to another.

I have two brothers of my own, one just a year younger and the other nine years my senior. I obviously grew up side by side with my younger brother, but I think he would agree that we did not like each other that much, or probably more accurately, we did not at all understand each other. Once grown and out of the house, we discovered /created a new relationship as adults. We have at times actually chosen to live with each other, and we've found some common ground that escaped us as children.

My older brother and I grew up in different eras under the same roof. Nine years is a chasm at those early ages, and he was more an occasional reluctant baby-sitter than a compatriot. However, that age gap enabled an ability to teach and he definitely sparked an interest in working with my hands, particularly in fixing cars while flipping through a Chilton Auto Repair Manual with greasy thumbs.

Time passes and relationships change. My younger brother has lived at times on the other side of the country or on the other side of the world, and my older brother has been off in marriage and raising two daughters. I am blessed with a family that enjoys time together, but occasional holiday dinners are often not enough to sustain or build strong connections.

At fifty, I seem to be pre-senile so I don't recall whose idea it was, but someone started the habit of the brothers meeting for dinner and drinks every month or so. It has been going on for about a year now, and it has been a great thing. We discuss things great and small, but most importantly just spend time together. It has been wonderful getting to know each of them better, in particular my older brother. He is no longer married, and he is a much happier human being. and I feel like I am just getting to really know him. The nine year gap so massive in youth is barely noticeable now.

We are experiencing our own Brotherhood 2.0, and this is one of the things I am very thankful for this year.

Happy Thanksgiving.



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