Mind Matters — Transitions

I find a note among old papers tonight—all because I was trying to kill a stink bug—ah, auspicious stink bug! The note says: “The kids are monkeys on Tuesday. Could you have Sofia (later to become Zofia more in accordance with her Polish grandmother’s spelling) wear something brown or dark?” This missive from Montessori preschool teacher Marla becomes a familial archaeological treasure, found on the heels of having just attended Zofia’s PhD graduation ceremony. Tears well. I remember those wondrous schooldays, and all the curiosity, wonder, innocence, and freshness—all future before those little monkeys.

Transitions, hard as they were then, were easier than they are now. “Little children, little worries, big children, big worries,” my parents used to say. I, being one of the big kids they referred to, didn’t get it—until now.

Now that my children are grown, I see: they are a bigger worry. We as parents are always limited in our ability to protect our progeny. That said, years ago, I could, if fortunate enough, prevent my three-year-olds from running out into the street. I could grab shoulders, pull them back. I could fling their tiny hands from flames of fire. I could swoop them up and carry them to bath, bed, and book. No longer. I can’t protect them from the uncertainty of a future that my generation, and generations before me, foolishly created.

The Native Americans say that one generation must consider what it does to affect the seven generations to come, who will be their descendents. Our culture not only snuffed out many Native Americans, it also eradicated their wise counsel. Well, that’s another story. Or maybe it isn’t.

Back to graduation. My daughter’s commencement exercises were awash with words about uncertainty and transition. Transitions, I repeat, are rarely easy. Change is loss, even when the change is necessary and for the better. We don’t like to let go of the familiar devil, even when the familiar saint awaits in the wings (to paraphrase an old Spanish proverb).

Every generation has its obstacles to face. However, I do believe the generation that my generation has engendered will encounter not just roadblocks and detours, but may also have to dive off a cliff to find ground. Like it or not, there is a huge shift of consciousness happening, and the old powers that be don’t like it and are fighting back with a vengeance. Unbeknownst to them, however, the status quo container has been broken. Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall, and all the King’s men can’t put him back together again, try hard as they might.

My concern is that there will be more for the rising generations to face. Consider the young Iranians voting against the regime in power. Consider the one man militia enactments of hatred—whether it be the old guard storming the Holocaust Museum or an abortion clinic. These are horrifying events in themselves, but in the grander scheme of things, we might hope that they are the last vengeful gasps of an old (dis)order that has seen its day. We might hope that these violent outbursts are in the larger view an impotent reaction to a new order of change that is occurring.

So what about this generation graduating? The long view may take a long time: meanwhile we confront the uncertainty of the near years—the years in which the “pillars” of society that sustained us are found to be decaying. Old authority looks more “old” and less “authority”. Men in beards and long robes seem more apt to be abusers than advisers—no matter whether the patriarch wears a cross, a star, or a crescent.

Recently, I heard that a colleague’s twenty-something daughter couldn’t find her way to the airport and called home anxious and perplexed. What a metaphor that story is for our adult children. They are trying to fly the nest and test their wings, and yet they are still looking to mom and dad to help them find their own authority as outer authority devolves. The advice is, “give your child roots and wings”. Difficult time to grow wings: the flying is precarious when you don’t know if there will be a place to land.

Our children, our grown children, are in for some big changes on this earth. Many forces are pushing for a change-back, against the inevitable thrust forward into a new consciousness.

Ironically, this is just the time when we and our children need to look back and take heed of what gold we may be leaving behind in the debris of an old disorder.

Each generation loses something in the transition to the next. My grandmother could kill a chicken, pluck it, cook it, and make wedding dresses, as well. My mother added American recipes to her family’s Polish repertoire and could knit and sew—but not as well as her mother. I can cook up a feast for a hundred, but can’t sew a lick. My daughter has a PhD in genetics—but cook? Not so much. As we gain complex knowledge, we seem to lose some grounding wisdom. We need to find a way to bring with change what doesn’t abstract us from earth, but what connects us better. In addition to Native Americans, even colonists had some notion of working with the earth rather than against it. The old dis-order had its wisdom.

Certain rooms in my banked (built into the side of a hill), 1800’s house can stay at 55° all year. Down the road, the John Chad House kitchen (also built into the hillside) stays cool all summer as bread bakes in its beehive oven (which is on the outside of the kitchen wall). Also, years ago, prior to light pollution and electricity, Americans slept ten hours a night, now we average 6-7 hours a night; and we are sleep-deprived.

No, I do not hanker to go back in time, but to bring forward, into this next great leap of faith over the abyss, some of the wisdom of the earth we did know. So that in our tough transition from the old disorder perhaps we and our adult children can find ground again. Meanwhile, I wonder what Marla’s Montessori monkeys will do.