Steve Wiley is Jackalope Ranch's Parent Hood. He's a slightly unorthodox father of five who will weigh in weekly with his mildly-rebellious views and observations. If you'd like to see how he came to write this column, watch the intro video. This week he tells his kids not to get too scared in our ever-fearful society.
Don't Be Scared, Kid.
It's not as if I liked scaring the hell out of my children when they were young. The idea is that I was looking out for them by instilling a healthy fear of potential danger as I helped them define this wild and wonderful reality from which they had sprung (and entered, it's a neat paradox). Not exactly a crazy parenting philosophy, right?
But like all parental philosophies (and that's all I'm ever putting forth in this blog is my philosophy, which I make up as I go), it's not quite as easy as it looks, and it changes as they grow up. Partly because the kids change, partly because the parent changes. So as they grow older, the philosophy must be re-examined.
Because one thing that hasn't changed is this: I am still a monster influence on what my offspring fear... or don't fear... and my philosophies can affect that fear for the rest of their lives.
So my new focus for all five of them is this: Don't be scared, kid.
Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself.
I forget who said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" (I'm pretty sure it was FDR, but I'm not the kind of writer that has to research stuff), but I harken back to the phrase quite often these days. It's sort of a rally cry.
Why? Because holy shit, have we become a fearful society. It's just crazy. We're scared of everything. Terrorists, governments, fiscal cliffs, diseases, Illuminati... there's something lurking just around every corner.
And that's just the stuff we can verify in this realm. Throw in various gods, devils, spirits, and other various made-up, er, "supernatural" stuff and it's a veritable buffet of apprehension.
If there's something that has fear-potential, the media (oh yeah, we're scared of them too) will whip up a graphic and work it like there's no tomorrow.
Which ironically is the ultimate fear. The fear that, as Jim Morrison put it, "The whole shithouse will go up in flames," and there won't be a tomorrow. See Calendar, Mayan or perhaps Armageddon, The.
Tomorrow, Tomorrow, There's Always Tomorrow?
Notice the trend? It's all about the future.
Will the terrorists get us? Will the government turn on us? Will we fall off a fiscal cliff?
Will we be OK in the FUTURE?
Because you see, we human beings need our security. And even if it's virtually impossible to guarantee even five minutes into the future... we're gonna do whatever it takes to pretend like we've got it under control and provide some.
You may have seen evidence of this on TV: We need to build a bunker, buy a bunch of guns and food, and prepare for all hell to break loose. We need lay low now, so we can stock up a bunch of money, and then we'll do some stuff when we are old. Or perhaps we can form a religion, please our deity, and maybe things will be cool after we die.
Whatever it takes to feel secure and reduce the fear. Fear of the future.
Kids, I'd Like to Introduce You To The Moment.
That's not the way I'm approaching it with my kids. I'm trying to teach my kids to spend as much time as possible appreciating the now-moment and spend as little time as possible worrying about future.
Notice I italicized worrying. That's because I'm not telling them to ignore the future (although that will be a now-moment too), just not to spend too much time worrying about it. That's because it won't insure any security and it takes your focus off the moment.
Instead, I'm suggesting they try this:
Start with this question: "Am I OK right now?" If you are OK, and amazingly most of us are, then that's the most important thing.
Enjoy right now. Now that you realize you are OK, be thankful and enjoy the amazing manifestations of God all around you.
Follow your bliss. This isn't my original philosophy (there's probably no such thing as "original philosophy" after all these centuries, and I learned this phrase from Joseph Campbell), but it's a tremendous one. I tell 'em not to wait until someday down the road to do what you love. Don't work a shitty job so at some point you can make enough money to someday follow your bliss. Do it now. (Watch the Alan Watts "What If Money Was No Object" video on the previous page, it's great on this point.)
Deal with the shit when it hits the fan. Regardless of whatever philosophy you choose to follow, or believe, or push, the shit is gonna hit the fan. Roll with the waves when they come and accept that whatever it is was meant to be - because it's actually happening.
I Ain't A Scared of You
Hopefully this is a philosophy that will help them reduce their fears. Especially their fear of the future. Hopefully that fear-reduction will lead them to more creative, hopeful lives.
Because like every other parent, I just want 'em to be happy. Right now.
Bonus Kid's Book Take: A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called Three Favorite Kids Books with Great Messages. I left off the book Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt because I knew I was going to write this post, and I knew the message applied.
The book deals with a young squirrel who's afraid of the unknown, of taking a chance, of Martians, of germs, of many aspects of life. One day he's forced out of his nut tree, and by exploring the unknown, he learns to fly, literally. It's message is not unlike that of this blog, and it's easier for little kids to understand. If you'd like a more grown-up book, try The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts.