Monday, December 15, 2014

Living Arrows

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. 
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. 
They come through you but not from you.
- Kahlil Gibran 

It's easy to miss the wonders that surround us. Most of us are too busy going through the motions to realize just how fascinating life really is. We take things for granted and no longer see the little miracles of everyday existence.

Children have no such problem. They're fascinated by everything. Nothing is mundane to a child. Everything sings with mystery. Everything is novel, new, bewildering and captivating. Everything is worth questioning.

As we move steadily toward adulthood we lose this sense of fascination with the world. We stop seeing things and see their labels instead. It's not that we forget how to look at the world properly but that we're gradually programmed not to. Our questions get answered or dismissed. We drape a veil over the mystery and call it solved. Curiosity goes into hibernation and we surrender to the labels.

A good way of lifting the veil is to contemplate things we take for granted, things that we accept without hesitation or question.

Take procreation, for example. People have kids. Big deal! They've been doing it for hundreds of thousands of years. Even so, the act of procreation is awe-inspiring on a variety of different levels. Even at its most basic, the act involves two people connecting in some way, be it emotional, psychological, or physical, and making a new person together. Each parent supplies a bit of raw material and the mother, blessed vehicle of life, nurtures and brings the seed to bloom.

It's primordial, like a cell dividing or a chemical reaction, and the result is a brand new human being.

In The Prophet, Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran offers some insights on the act of procreation and parents' subsequent role in their children's lives. For instance, he tells us

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
Instilling children with the ideas of yesterday is counter to Nature, which operates by progressing, not regressing. We should give our children the tools necessary so that they may discover their own beliefs. If those beliefs happen to differ from our own, so be it. They are their own people. 

Gibran goes on:

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. 
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. 
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; 
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

What can any parent do save offer a stable foundation for her children to stand on? This is the very basis of human progress, one generation building upon the works of generations past, not maintaining the status quo but improving upon it.

Note also that in Gibran's metaphor, the parent is merely the bow, not the archer. In some way this is true, as we are conditioned to act and think the way we do by our past experiences, culture, and beliefs. Even so, I'd like to think that parents play some part in the aiming, which often works to the detriment of their children.

How many parents try to steer their children toward certain paths only to have it backfire? How many groom their children from birth to be professional athletes, doctors, and lawyers only to have them do a 180?

If you are a parent, remember that the children in your care don't belong to you. You are not their owner, master, or boss. They are not a coat rack for you to hang your failed dreams upon. You are their custodian, their guide, and it is your job to give them the tools necessary to succeed regardless of the path they decide to walk.

Aim your living arrows not at the target your parents missed when firing you into the world, but at the target best suited to your children's passions, skills, and talents.

/rant over 
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