At 3:00 in the morning, and with my eyes and mind weary for sleep, is not the time I want to be gaining new awarenesses. And certainly not the time I want to be writing about them.
But here I am, at 4:oo in the morning doing just that.
And what makes it worse, I'm writing about having been wrong.
And, by the time I finish this piece, I may not only have fallen asleep, but have decided that I was wrong about what I have spent all this time thinking and writing about for the past (?) hours, and that I was right in the first place; or more likely, wrong both times.
Ah, but such is the search for truth. There is no such thing as attainment, only the act. Like the fastest runner in the world. He is only considered such because of the race that he runs. After the race he is declared a runner, but in fact, he is only a runner when he is running. And only the fastest until the next race when someone outruns him.
Education. I have been blaming Education for corrupting the minds of our youth. And, of course, the youth become the old men with corrupt minds.
I have had a rethink on this. Did Education corrupt the mind? Or is it more likely that the corrupt mind has just been educated?
At this writing, I tend to lean toward the direction that it is a combination of both.
Two children growing up in the same environment, same parents, etc, etc, can, and do often grow up to be very different people.
And some people begin life one way, that is with a particular set of problems, then somewhere in their life, overcome that (or those) problem(s); While another person will go their entire life without that problem, and for one reason or another, take on that problem late in life.
I think of the number of times that I have read in the paper of a 70 or so year old man being arrested for something for which he had no history of having such a problem.
I have vilified Education. I still do. By stating that a person has a drinking problem does in no way excuse another person for having insisted that the alcoholic have a drink with him. One thing does not cause the other, but it does help perpetrate and justify the other.
So, as I see it at this point in time, it is the nature of the person that is the problem. A person with a corrupt nature is going to be corrupt whether he is in prison, or in church behind the pulpit.
Our nature. What is our nature? That is, are we, as humans, instinctively bad? Are we the selfish creatures that we apparently are? Are we born bad, and have to struggle against odds to become good?
And, what is good? Is good the opposite of bad? Or are there degrees of good that we can attain that puts us in that category, and takes us out of "badness?"
According to our judicial system, we are only as good as our worst act. That is, we can live exemplary lives, and at our first failings, we are punished as one who is a criminal. And our official record will so state this as fact for the rest of our life.
I'm not faulting the judicial system, just using it for an example. This system has been the same since there has been any form of civilization. And I have no cure to offer as an alternative.
According to the Bible, we are just that. We are all born into sin. We are condemned from our first breath. And, as is custom, often begin life with punishment, from the first swat on the rump by the doctor, to the knife at circumcision.
Are we in fact born as little demons? Is it possible that Satan does not have to do anything as far as our evil works are concerned? That all he has to do is sit back and let our wicked nature have a free reign?
But what about the innocence of a child? Surely that is the closest any of us will ever be to being good; Isn't it?
And what about the Mother Teresa's? Can we not call them "Good?"
Or is it possible that these beacons of light, childhood and the altruistic, are not beacons at all, but rather fireflies in darkness, that would only appear as flickers in real sunlight?
And, if that is the case, what then do we have to do to serve as beacons in our search for the road out of wickedness?
Preachers in church tell us the Bible says that Jesus is our Beacon. That He, and He only exemplifies what we should be like.
But what is it He did that I, as a person born into this wicked body, can emulate? I was not born of a Virgin. I certainly am not the Son of God, in the sense that He was. As a descendent of Adam, I, as well as all humanity, are sons of God as Adam was, but in a totally different form.
Jesus performed Miracles. I can't do that. He healed the sick. I could possibly become a doctor, or a acupuncturist. But at my age, that is unlikely. He fed thousands. That is in the realm of possibility. Now we are looking at becoming Mother Teresa's again.
He preached the Word of God. That certainly is possible for me to do. And I hope a touch of that is being accomplished with this web site. But, what is the truth? Every church on every corner says that they, and they alone have the truth. So the Truth that I teach, may in fact be a lie.
Jesus died on a Cross. I don't think I could find any Roman soldier to assist in that. Besides, He died for our sins. If I died a hundred such deaths, I still couldn't atone for my own sins, leastwise yours or anyone else's. He was resurrected. Well, that will happen to all of us someday, for either our good, or our undoing. But it is nothing that I have control over, or that will help me know what to do to be good in this life.
So I am back where I started. What am I supposed to do to work my way out of being bad?
There is still one more clue. Jesus said that we must become as little children if we are to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
But didn't we (or more realistically -I) just finish saying that children are corrupt, wicked little creatures? To what, then, could He have been referring? Nicodemus wondered the same thing two thousand years ago. He asked, "Can I climb back into my mother's womb and be born again?"
Perhaps that is what Jesus meant when He said we should be like children, that we should be "born again." He certainly made it clear that such is one of the requirements for making it to Heaven. But at the time He said it, He made reference to the children around Him, so I suspect He meant something else besides.
What is it about children from is different than we adults that are dealing with the problem? And at what age does one stop being the child that need not worry about entering Heaven?
As for age, that seems on the surface simple enough. The established age is 12 or 13, depending on one's beliefs and culture. To the Jews of Jesus' times, according to my research, it is the time when two pubic hairs appear that a child was Bar mitzfa(ed), at which time he was considered to be a man. (Not to be confused with his being "adopted" by his father at age 30 when his father declares that his son is now the spokesman for the family, and that the son's word was the same as the father speaking it.)
In some cultures this is the age when the "ex-child" took on the responsibilities of adulthood.
And it is the age when Jesus first made His appearance to people in general, and (to us, at least, according to the Bible) spoke His mind freely.
So, if this reasoning holds true, that childhood ends at age 13 or so, what is there about that age that makes us different?
And, of course, puberty is the end of innocent intent and pleasures, and the beginning of a hard, bitter change of personality and physical structure that overwhelms us, and sometimes seems as if it will destroy us.
I would hate to think that I am, in fact, the person I was in my teen years. A lot of who I am was formed during that time, and certainly the problems that I struggle with, and try to overcome, began during that period in my life.
The general consensus is, at least so we are told, that our "formative years" are those before puberty. I wish that were so. But, for myself, I see very little of that innocence lingering in my psyche.
I wish it were.
And I suspect that the nature we possessed before puberty is what we are to re-obtain.
Ok. On that premise, what did we (at least supposedly) possess?
Children are trusting. And of course they have no other choice. Under normal circumstances, all that a child (especially as a baby) acquires is through others. Of course there are exceptions, such as the cast-out children on the streets of many countries, such as our own.
Children are loving. I don't think there are any but the hardest hearted that can't feel the difference between the honest and complete love that comes from the hug of a child, in contrast to the controlled, and often contrived affection offered by persons once they have reached puberty.
I don't think we can expect that a child who is raised (or rather, raises himself) on the garbage dumps of South America to recapture the sense of love, or of trust, that they have never experienced. And though I am quite sure that is a big part of what Jesus was alluding to, I think, also, that there is one more point (at least) to which he was referring.
A child is an explorer. And the younger the child, the more curious and anxious to learn and experience every little facet of life he or she is. A child is fascinated by a bug crawling on the ground, by a leaf floating in the wind, in fact by every new thing that comes within range of any of their senses.
A child will watch for hours out the car window just observing the scenery go by.
Then, somewhere along the line, (and often all too young) they sit back moping and muttering, "Are we there yet?"
The adventure is gone. The spirit is lost.
They have grown up.
Which leads to yet one more quality that a child possesses that is lost in adulthood. And one which I am sure our Savior had in mind.
Give a small child a simple marble, and they are thrilled.
Give an older child a computer, and they think it's nothing more than they deserve.
Give a teenager with his new driver's license in his hand a new Ford, and he says, "Is that all? I was expecting a Mercedes. All the other kids have a Mercedes."
We have lost that sense of appreciation.
Jesus told us to not only be appreciative (He said "thankful") for the big things we get, but also, which is quite hard to do, be thankful for the bad things that happen to us.
Even a child would be hard pressed to fulfill that commandment.
So, how did we lose all these child-like qualities that we are to recapture?
Now you can give that sigh of relief you have been holding back. I have returned to my original subject (three hours later as to my writing, as it is after 7 am).
Not just in schools, though to me it is a pitiful shame that we pay for the corruption of our children's minds by those who we are assured have nothing but the child's best interest at heart.
Peer pressure is certainly another destructive influence on the child. And only the worst of a child's associates are set up as examples to follow. And, of course, they are also the ones teaching the child the "facts of life."
School and peers certainly effect a child's behavior and attitudes, as do the sordid movies and advertisement they are being bombarded with constantly.
And they are also being taught that "trusting adults" is for fools and small children. Which, of course, every time an adult disagrees with, or disciplines a child, it is evidence that the adage is true, in their mind. And, should the child happen to miss that connection, there will certainly be several of his peers around to point it out.
The preceding touches on behavior, as stated, and attitude. But what about trust? What happened to it?
Chances are that we have to look no farther than ourself to find a good example of what causes a child to not trust. How many times has a parent been seen cheating, or conniving on the job. Or lying to their boss. Or lying to the child? Or not fulfilling a promise to the child?
Little by little such things build up, until the child believes that there is no such thing as honesty.
This is a terrible period of time in which to raise a child. And it's getting worse.
But! The "innocent" period of the '50's was really not much better. Oh, of course, swearing and smoking could get a child suspended from school in those days, whereas selling cocain and shooting a gun in school might get a child suspended for a couple days now.
But in the early 50's there was also peer pressure. A big difference is that the kid who smoked was looked upon as the bad kid that all was expected to stay away from. Now if he uses drugs and no telling what else, he is looked upon as the "cool" kid to be emulated.
A bit of difference there.
On TV and the movies, the hero was one who looked out for the helpless, and a man and woman was never seen in bed together, except if married, and then at least one of them had to have a foot on the floor.
A tiny bit different than today. Not really any influence on the children, right?
But back to trust.
In that innocent age we had Ozzie and Harriet. We had I Love Lucy. We had the Beaver.
We had a ton of such programs to teach us how to be innocent and healthy children, as well as wholesome families, and homespun parents. Right? Ask anyone. It was the Golden Age of raising a family.
What was the premise of every show? What was everyone laughing at, and still do today?
Well, on Lucy, either Ricky, or Fred, or Ethel, and always Lucy was lying, conniving and occasionally outright stealing.
Their entire relationship was built on such dishonesty, and the eventual confession, forgiveness, and appreciation of the other's "little faults."
Ozzie was often out "with the boys," or trying to be, while he and his buddies and neighbors were trying to figure out how to cover it up to their wives, or how to slip out of the house and avoid doing the job they had promised to do.
On the Beaver, the boys were forever trying to figure out how to cover up some misdeed or mischief of the Beaver's, who usually, for no malicious fault of his own, had gotten himself into.
Family values. Innocent fun. Entertainment.
Role models and examples of real life,
Instructions on how to do an evil deed and get away with it.
"It takes a community to raise a child." Now it takes a whole world to corrupt one.
So I have fairly well covered possible reasons for lost love and trust. How about appreciation. What happens to that?
Again, I don't think we have to look any farther than ourselves for this one, Of course the media and advertising develop a desire for things. "You deserve...." and "Beg, plead or steal the money for...." are offered by ads and peers for a child to get what they want.
But we don't help by loading a child down with more than they can ever use or store, (and, by the way, consider the problem of getting the kid to put them all away when there is no room for it all in their closet).
No earning the money for. No saving for. But rather having to forgo food and other necessities for the overpriced item that will be out of date before it is unwrapped.
And if you don't give in to the child's demands, it is considered child abuse of the worse kind.
So, where did we lose our childlike sense of appreciation? Any more, I don't think it was ever "lost" as much as was never given the opportunity to be developed in the first place.
Education or Nature. That was my original thought. The rest is what happens when one thought brings on another avenue of thought. But, I find, that without taking the other avenues, the first thought just ends up as a dead-end street, but I think I have reached the end of the road.
What caused me to begin this quest in the first place is my friend and father. The father was not educated. My friend was. The father was a rather simple man (and I don't mean simple-minded as he was far from that), but my friend tried to be "highfalutin." The father was more of a "what you see is what you get" kind of man, where my friend was more of a "who knows who I am? I sure don't," though he worked very hard at covering up that fact.
Both were very much alike, though saw themself as totally different. Both were very ridged in their thinking, and primarily interested in their own welfare.
What made my friend as he was? I have blamed education.
Yet, as what came to me this morning, both my educated friend, and his uneducated father, were so much alike.
And they both, to be quite frank, were really no different than just about everyone else in the world. The only oddball in the lot is me. And the main reason I am odd is because I disagree with both my friend and his father-- which means I also disagree with most of the people in the world, both educated and uneducated.
Am I right? It's doubtful. But if I'm going to be wrong, I'll be wrong with a lot of wrong opinions supporting my wrongness, and not wrong because I just blindly accepted someone else's "rightness."
There is one characteristic of children I have yet to conclude. That is the adventurist, explorer nature of children that seems to fade all too soon. That vitality filled ability to find enjoyment in every little thing that is so natural with children.
In my mind I see families gathered in small groups on a sandy beach, a warm day with wispy clouds drifting aimlessly overhead.
Men, women, and older teens (with a few notable exceptions) are sitting much like manikins on blankets that checkerboard the sand. People rarely moving except to do that which is necessary, such as preparing meals or smearing coconut oil on one another. And, very likely, unaware of the overhanging trees, or the birds, or the breaking waves of the surf.
But, the children? Running, playing in the surf, chasing one another, feeding the seagulls, building sand castles, collecting seashells, and whatever other way they can think of to enjoy and explore the beauty that God has provided.
Love and trust are elements of childhood that, as far as I can see, have to be recaptured by each individual on his or her own, and each in their own way. Suggestions can be made, but little else.
But that spirit of exploration, the life and vitality that either comes from, or lends itself to childhood is something that we can share with one another. That we must each provide one to another in order to keep it alive. Just as a group of children tossing a ball one to another, contrasted to a separated child tossing a ball into the air with no one to catch it but himself.
Dead-end roads of information that cause us to think we are cleverly at the end of a journey remind me of a street I once encountered while at the beach in Los Angeles. It was only a half-block long, and it ended at the sand overlooking the ocean. Along the edge and at the end of the street were official signs that read, "No parking," and "No stopping," and "No U turns allowed."
This, to me, is a good example of the Educated Mind. One that has lost it's quest for learning because it believes it has already arrived, and that all who disagree are on the wrong road.
(Incidentally, I had intended for this to be a short piece.)