Both the light we seek and the shadows that we fear are projected from within.
-The Unexpected Universe
“You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don’t help.”
― Bill Watterson
“When we are mired in the relative world, never lifting our gaze to the mystery, our life is stunted, incomplete; we are filled with yearning for that paradise that is lost when, as young children, we replace it with words and ideas and abstractions – such as merit, such as past, present, and future – our direct, spontaneous experience of the thing itself, in the beauty and precision of this present moment.”
― Peter Matthiessen
One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is to live in the moment. It’s easy to get ‘mired in the relative world,’ caught in the mundane day-to-day living and forget the paradise from which we were expelled as we grew from children to adults. Children live in the Now, no divide between the real and fantasy. After all, children are the ones who believe by simply stepping into a forest, they enter another world. Children believe in ghosts and fairies and Santa Claus. They believe in the goodness of the world because they have never been taught the bad. I am, of course, speaking generally here as I know there are many children who are never allowed this kind of childhood. Even these children often live in fantasy, believing – hoping – that the one who abuses them loves them.
I understand the need for ‘words and ideas and abstractions’. We need these to survive in today’s world, but as Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes said, “I go to school, but I never learn what I want to know.” Where do children learn love and kindness and compassion? These traits are of the Now. Nobody learns love or compassion or kindness in the past or the future. And if they don’t learn these things as children, Now, where will they?
The world’s sadness comes from not living in the Now. We expect children to grow and become responsible, to forget the magical world of childhood, instead learning geometry and history and government. Important, yes, but why not art and theater and day dreaming, too? The past is gone, never to be retrieved. The future will never come. All we have is each moment to exist in all the glory of the world, to come to know not only our own souls, but the soul of the world.
I believe we are all connected, deep down in our souls. We are one, you and I and the mountains and rocks and trees and animals. Science has gone a long way to proving this. After all, we are all made from the same building blocks of the universe: us, nature, chairs, tables, the food we eat. Children instinctively understand this. As adults, we have forgotten. We spend hours immortalizing vacations, children’s games, birthdays, Christmas, in photos instead of moving the camera from our vision to see the beauty now, moment to moment as it unfold. We run from our emotions, hiding them to avoid the pain, pretending our lives are full and happy and whole.
I know my life is not full and happy and whole when I am living in the past or the future. So how do we remember to take each moment as it comes?
“There’s no reality except the one contained within us. That’s why so many people live an unreal life. They take images outside them for reality and never allow the world within them to assert itself.”
― Hermann Hesse
“Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. . . If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn’t we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others? What about the world of a schizophrenic? Maybe it’s as real as our world. Maybe we cannot say that we are in touch with reality and he is not, but should instead say, His reality is so different from ours that he can’t explain his to us, and we can’t explain ours to him. The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too differently, there occurs a breakdown in communication … and there is the real illness.”
― Philip K. Dick
Reading this, my immediate thought was to forward this to my sons. Both went off to college and came home after a semester. Both were mortified by their failure. Both are smart and could have – should have – done well. But they didn’t. Mostly because their father figure didn’t teach them how to be men. Then again, their father is a 53-year-old 5-year-old. He taught them not to grow up and be responsible for their own lives.
I love my sons deeply, but I wish…. In my perfect world they would both be strong men. Responsible for their lives. Stepping out into the world to grow their lives as happy, healthy, adults. But that is a perfect world and, unfortunately, I don’t live in a perfect world.
My biggest fear is they are so mortified by their fall that neither will rise up again. How do you convince a 19 and a 24-year-old it’s not the fall which matters but how you get up afterwards? It’s a hard lesson and it took me years to learn. As a mother, I want to spare them my pain. I want to open up their heads (not literally) and pour all my hard-won knowledge in so they don’t have to make the same mistakes I did; so they don’t have to suffer the heartaches and pains.
I know, realistically, I can’t do this, but that doesn’t stop me from wishing.
And, yes, I know my negative attitude is not helping. I get so frustrated with the *lumps* sitting on their beds, watching their TVs and playing on their computers. Yes, they both take classes at the local community college and the older one works part-time, but really? Would I want to be living at home at their ages?
Ah – no.
In the end, I know this is their fight just as my lessons were mine. I can’t make these decision for them, as much as I dearly long to toss them out the door and say, “Fly.” So I struggled with teaching them to stand back up and move forward. There is no shame in falling, just in not getting up again. I struggled to teach them responsibility and how to walk in this world, head high, shoulders back, smiling even in the dark.