Distress and the Newest Among Us
Previous Next Random Photo
Distress and the Newest Among Us • Posted: Oct 14, 2012 12:23:52Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

One of the most distressing moments of my life occurred when my son was not much older than the child pictured above. His mother and I were in the midst of an argument. Not a fight, but a heated discussion, one of us arguing for a certain direction, the other arguing against that direction and for another. My son had been in his room napping. We'd woken him and he came running into the room in tears, sliding across the floor in his Doctor Denton's with arms out like a traffic cop screaming in torment "STOP. STOP ARGUE."

To say the least, we were struck speechless. I don't think either one of us had, up until that moment, been fully aware of how much our open arguing had been affecting the emotional development of our son. We'd both been raised within families that argued with each other, about this, about that, about anything that involved more than one of us. It was common practice, something we'd both come to believe was normal. But here, here before us we were seeing the cost to those around us like we never had before. It nearly brought us both to tears. And still to this day I can't shake feelings of guilt that I might right then and there have unwittingly hurt or damaged my son by shaking the foundation of trust, caring, and compassion both my wife and I had tried so earnestly to build for him. Because, from his point of view, the terrifying reality before him was that his calm safe world was at this very moment about to tear apart, leaving him suspended over an unfathomable abyss struggling to not lose touch with either of us. His tears. His distress. I could not help taking him into my arms. How could I ever have done that to him?

Look today at the world around us. It is election season in the U.S., economic crisis season in the E.U., economic slowdown season in Asia, and political turmoil season in the Mid-East. Most of the world is facing serious problems. And, most people in the world are trying to get a handle on who is to blame and what can be done to get them out of the way so things can get back to "right" again. We've somehow all come to believe there is an enemy out there, an enemy we need to chase down and sweep away. But why? Why must we sweep them away? Why are they to blame? Why are they our enemy and we theirs? And what, pray tell, is all this arguing, this strife, doing to the emotional and intellectual development of our children as they look out at us with distressed eyes for something more reassuring than unrelenting discord?

I don't know what the answer is. Differences of opinion on what the facts are, how they should be interpreted, and what direction from here on is most desirable will always be with us. It's both the wonder and frustration of two or more people sharing points of view, experiences, and aspirations. No two points of view are identical. Any eventual coordination will be, by necessity, a compromise. The planet we live on is not divisible. It is a single system. Anything and everything each of us does affects everything else. There is no escape. When we choose to bring a child into this world, we are saying to that child "there is room for you here." But is there? Is there only room if we sweep aside all who don't agree with us? Is vanquish or be vanquished the essence of our being? Is continuous warring our one true calling, our essential occupation? Is there really nothing more for us?

I heard an interview with Michael Feinstein this week. He said, "I look around at our world today and what, for me, is palpably missing is music that brings us all together the way it used to." He went on to explain that there used to be songs that people all knew and sang together, songs that bound them together with common feelings and a common understanding of where we are all trying to go as a people. Such songs, such music does not play a part in our lives today. And fewer and fewer of our leaders are trying to help us find common ground the way those old songs used to do. Instead, we find ourselves listening to people arguing with each other, rallying us to one side or another in hate and derision for those who don't agree with us. And all the while, innocent eyes watching us are becoming more and more distressed at what they are coming to understand will be the world they inherit.

May the hard sharp corners of uncompromise in your heart and mind melt at the thought of what you could be doing to the wide-eyed inquiring innocence of all the young people amongst us.

Sunday, August 12th, 2012