So at what age or time does life become serious?
The past few years have been a whirlwind of change for me. Both my best friends have had babies. I’ve changed careers. Terrorism has become an every day word. My wife’s career is beginning to really take off. My health status has changed dramatically (for the better mind you but still dramatically.) My parents grow older everytime I see them. 10 years ago the town I live in was rural, now it’s more appropriately a suburb. I’ve been hit by a car while riding my bike. I’ve had two friends diagnosed with brain cancer. Schools are becoming a territory of terror rather than a foundation of learning. Politics are as ugly, if not uglier, than ever.
So when did it, or we, or I, become ‘serious?’
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about shirking responsiblity or ducking commitment or accepting consequence. What I’m talking about is the soul. Our soul. As individuals? I never see children out in their yards playing anymore. Well, almost never. When I was a kid, my parents never thought twice about me going outside, heading down to the creek and blasting the crap out of Krauts or the Viet Cong. Playing war was something we did. Like cops and robbers. It didn’t teach me to hate Germans or Asians. My best friend’s wife is Taiwanese and she’s a gem (and like my own bride I’m still trying to puzzle how the heck he managed to snag her.) I have German in my own heritage so I’d be stupid to hate myself. What it taught me was to be intolerant of oppresion and evil.
But now, kids are locked to their computer screens (the irony that I type this on a computer screen myself does not escape me.) Computers are a boon to be sure but they can also be a hinderance. My imagination and all of my friends will tell you it is quite vivid was developed on books, outdoor adventure and the chance to turn a tree into a monstrous troll and a rocky ravine into the bunker of a German machine gun crew. It’s estimated that within the next 10 to 15 years that 1 in 3 children will develop Type II Diabetes at some point in their lives. 1 in 3. Fear is one aspect that keeps them in, especially when we hear just about every other day about a new abduction of some youngster, child or teen. Pedophiles exist in every aspect of our society. No institution is sacred no matter how hard we try to hide it. Not the government. Not republicans. Not liberals. Not the great bastion of higher education nor the stalwart and faithful of the house of Christ. What is a parent to do but get serious?
I commute to and from work (school) on my bike. There’s never parking on campus and it’s way too expensive to risk a ticket. As I ride through the campus, I’m struck by what I see with the other riders. Almost none wear helmets and nearly a good two-thirds of them don’t pay any attention whatsover to the traffic signals and the rules of the road. One kid (he was at least in his twenties but given what he was doing I can’t honestly say I’d want to call him an adult) was riding his bike on the tail of a car, hands free, and carrying a cup of coffee in one hand and a biscuit in the other that he was munching on. Only the grace of God kept that car from not putting on its brakes at an inopportune moment. It’s not wonder automobiles hate cyclists. So many cyclists treat the road like they have a right to be there. And yet they carry not the morale fortitude to actually earn that right. Do they obey the laws? Do they think outside their own little bubbles to look around them and take in the collective of others who share, yes, that’s S-H-A-R-E, that road?
This is the rub. I find as I age, and I’m aging much more rapidly then I would have expected, that people are more and more drawing a fine little shield around themselves. The world belongs to them and only them and anything outside of that little shield is suspect at best and evil at worst. We don’t look around us anymore. We don’t step outside, wave to our neighbor, ask how the boys are doing (dogs in this case). We don’t hold doors for people anymore, male or female, because we’re afriad of being told they can do it themselves or that we’re a sexist pig (which begs the questions of what that says about that person rather than us.)
We’re afraid. We live in constant fear. Our ‘seriousness’ doesn’t come from a focus of determination or drive but from an overwhelming shadow of fear and apprehension. We look outside and our minds are suddenly opened to the fact that at any moment our car may blow up or we may get a terminal disease or our child may choke on a sucker another child gave her.
Some famous words that I try to hold onto more and more, and I’m actually getting better and better at it much to my surprise are,
“Don’t take life too seriously, none of us will make it out alive.”
I’ve seen it quote often but do not know who actually coined it. I believe Paul, the apostle, said
“Live life as if you were already dead.”
Perhaps we as a society could learn to take these words to heart. How wonderful it would be to see the children playing again. To see schools forgoe the need for a police officer to patrol their grounds. To go to work each morning without the concern that today may be the day that someone comes to work with a gun.
Perhaps I dream. Perhaps it is but fantasy. Whatever the case there will always be an ‘excuse’ to live in fear. But to live freely, to live fully…one need make no excuse.