Touch the Future began over twenty years ago. The vision was to help parents and those who care about children respond in the best possible way to the dramatic changes in the environment we call childhood, changes that exploded after World War II. We did not have the internet then. Social media and mobile phone-computers did not exist. The dangers that television represented are now compounded many times with ‘screen time’ replacing living, breathing relationships. Technology in the early classroom was just creeping in. Levels of autism, emotionally challenged youth and other pathologies were significantly lower but on the rise. Play deprivation was high with adult organized activities replacing free-range spontaneous play. The impact of hospital-technological birth on mother-infant-father attachment continues. Global warming with the threat of mass global extinction, including homo sapiens was a distant dream.
I would like to know what you feel are the top five challenges today:
- Facing the prenate and early child (0-5)
- The middle child (6-12)
- Teens (13-19) and
- Parents in general
The top five challenges in order of importance, four categories.
What do you think?
Musing about these challenges: When I think about the big picture and how it expresses as parenting I keep circling back to one key point: We really don’t know who or what we are! By this I mean; we don’t deeply understand the nature of our amazing capacity to imagine, thought being an imaginative process. The magnificent capacity to imagine without careful attention and critical review, meaning uncensored, automatic and reflexive, unleashes a steam of fantasies and belief, and these mental images often trigger strong emotions. What we call our self-image, the ego and egotism, selfishness and narcissism and their counterparts, racism and prejudice, is part of this stream. When this force is active it acts like a filter warping and distorting what we see and feel and our children must make sense of this and cope. Coping generates a similar stream in the child’s developing psyche and they are caught just like us. We lessen this need to cope in our children by negating this unchecked, warping stream in ourselves, we bring new clarity, energy and attention to the messes this stream has and is generating.
William Shakespeare wrote:
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
While Shakespeare’s tragic lines are indeed tragic, they reveal, and powerfully, something we cannot deny. Much of our own sound and fury is but a momentary dream, a knee jerk reaction that comes and goes, pushed aside by the next dream. Much of what we call consciousness is ephemeral, meaning quickly passing, an effervescent parade of dream-thoughts and feelings including and most important of all, the powerful images we have about ourselves and others. We use thoughts, feelings and memory but really don’t understand how it all works.
It has been said; If we address this root – understand how we are creating the messes our sloppy use of our own thoughts and feelings, and begin using with deep clarity and insight the way the brain creates images, everything changes. If we do not – nothing changes. Strip away the mythic overlay and the heart of every spiritual practice addresses this singular challenge.
During my first Touch the Future interview Ashley Montagu observed that ‘change’ is the name of the game up to high school, when most people stop and settle into this mostly knee jerk malaise. Yes, we read the paper, watch Fox Not-News and bubble up all sorts of dream reactions but these are like moving furniture around in Carly’s miniature doll house. Rearranging the furniture in our mind mimics change but it is not any more than changing the channel on the telly. The fundamental pattern remains. We are still in the same room staring at the same screen. Superficial change is really no change at all.
The state of our absurd political process, endless wars and the money behind both are a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I had a brief conversation with Athena, our former nanny, now an assistant in a title-one classroom, mainstreaming special needs children. “Our small school district is in a financial crisis,” she lamented. “The parents of our children are stressed to the max.” “There is no financial crisis,” I said. On Sept 10, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld announced the Pentagon had lost 2.1 trillion. On August 3, 2016, it was announced that the Pentagon “lost” 6.5 trillion this time. Lost means unable to account for. They don’t know where the money went. How convenient? This is the real crisis, not health care and education.
Macbeth was first performed in 1606. Nothing much has changed inwardly. The ambition and violence that drove Macbeth and his wife to their end is splattered all over the world by the six media corporations that reap billions doing just that. What I call ‘popular politics,’ meaning staged events for mass consumption, is simple show biz, Trump and Hillary being this episode’s super stars. With Hillary’s popularity being what it is, the producers needed a real villain and they got it.
Macbeth is a tragedy and so is this overpaid diversion. Climate change, a politically correct name for species extinction, the rising probability of nuclear war, global income disparity – a hand full of super rich stealing from everyone else, our poisoned food and water supply including our poor oceans and melting ice caps, the planet’s blood supply, these are the real challenges. You might have missed it. A recent article stated; "The Great Barrier Reef of Australia passed away in 2016 after a long illness. It was 25 million years old.” 93% of the reef is affected by bleaching putting the reef in danger of extinction.
Rearranging the props and players on the same inner stage will not meet the challenge. We can safely say that our corrupt social-political structures emanate from our corrupt psyche. We give these powerful institutions life the same way we give our false identities, our ego life. Krishnamurti said clearly; “We think the problems are out there in society. The root of the problem is really inward and we are unwilling to face this.”
Last evening at dinner Carly Elizabeth pushed peas across the table. She literally climbed on the table chasing after them, sticky hands leaving paw prints along the way. “Carly,” I asked, “would you like a finger bowl?” “Yes,” she said, climbing back to her chair. I placed a small bowl of water on the table and she proceeded to wash and precisely dry each hand. Then she lifted her foot to the table and attempted to wash it. Not able to quite manage she grabbed the water dish and placed it on her chair prompting our intervention. At first she protested, “Carly sama!” she said, Czech for “I will do it myself.” Holding the dish, I handed her a towel.
I shared that one of our most remarkable accomplishments was not making Carly feel wrong or bad when a mess is made. Only once or possibly twice in her brief life has she been the focus of our disdain. Rather, we focus on the mess, not blaming who caused it. The less energy and attention we invest in justifying and defending our self-image the greater our capacity, empathy and intelligence to deal with messes. This is true at our individual level and equally so globally. We assume that egos are natural and normal because everyone has one. I don’t think so. Great teachers throughout history have pointed to another way. This simple act of focusing attention on the mess rather than Carly being the cause of the mess is a big step forward. The smaller the ego, individually and globally, the greater our energy and attention are to deal with messes.
We can look at the global banking system, popular politics, Monsanto and Big Pharma, compulsory education and the military-industrial complex as big fat giant egos, each bullying and exploiting the other and at our, humanity and the environment’s, expense. The central theme of Joseph Chilton Pearce’s collected works is that these institutions are part of the larger meta-ego we call culture. The hero’s journey begins by stepping out of the false identity that culture demands and from that new perspective acting in new ways. No longer identifying with culture is the essential prerequisite for changing culture. This action, no longer being enchanted by the ‘not-reality show,’ establishes a new field out of which new answers and a new culture will grow. And this begins by directing Carly’s attention to the milk and not who spilled it.
Outer change begins inside each of us, one person at a time. At some indefinable point something fundamentally shifts and nothing can stop it.
What do you think are the top five challenges in order of importance in our four categories?