family & parenting

lost childhood

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The lost childhood I speak of is yours, and mine, and that of our children. It is the loss of a foundation to what little civilization we have gained in the last ten thousand years. Most essentially, it is the loss of ourselves, our past, and our future. It is in our childhood that we first realize ourselves, come to recognize who we are, and learn to understand our individual being within the social context of other human beings. This is what has been lost.

I am not speaking of what will happen. I am not suggesting that if we do thus and such this calamity will be avoided. It is done. We are there now in that space beyond the moment when the loss occured. Virginity cannot be regained.

I am addressing both the verb and the adjective of the thing: to be deprived of, to become poorer, to default, deplete, dissipate, divest, drain, to fail, or fail to keep, to fall short, forfeit, to squander, to surrender, use up, waste, and yield. I mean that we have destroyed ourselves, demolished our heritage, devastated our present, dissipated our selves, forgotten our responsibilities, frittered away our chances, misspent or misused our talents, and ruined, wasted and squandered what was given us in trust. All of that, and worse. You have. I have.

We are impoverished! We have sacrificed childhood to the convenience of electronic variety. For several generations now we have allowed the television to raise our children. Hollywood has made their character, more than the heritage of those mothers and fathers who lived and worked and died to make our world possible. We, and our children, do not aspire to making the most of ourselves, but to being more like the thin film of digital artifice we watch on our screens. We aspire to sex. In the city, if possible.

But, you object! Some parents set aside a few hours a week for sports, or dinner time. Isn’t that enough? You are telling me that all the weight and consequence of Western civilization is dependent on how you hold the bat? Do you actually discuss morality at the dinner table? Or anytime?

Our excuses are not new. They are the excuses of our parents, who loved us and raised us to be who we are. There was just too little time and so much to do. . . . Oh, hey, did you see that episode of Mad Men? Oh well, you can always see it again on Youtube.

You are responsible now for your own life, and perhaps the tender lives of a few more. Not to worry. Between that fabulous education they are getting at school and the terrific entertainment value package you are getting from Verizon, your children are well covered. They can learn to build a fire at summer camp.

When the power does go out–and it will–can you find fresh water, build a fire, kill a deer–or prepare it? Do you actually understand that the TV won’t work? A Briggs and Stratton 5500 watt generator will not produce images on your screen. And the gas will run out.

Your friend, the outdoor enthusiast, will not loan you his gun.

This particular week of our lives, several dozen other human beings, very much like us, died in this two dimensional world we have made for, by and of ourselves. We will now bandy words like tragedy and watch the flicker of news reports and then we will forget. It was not more real to us, after all, than any video entertainment. Or than the dark Gotham of Batman. Besides, as many died by the similar means in Chicago this week, but who knew? It was not on our screens, so it didn’t happen.

Civilization will not be saved by a masked crusader. Civilization is gained or lost in childhood.

The loss of those lives in Colorado, and all the others in Chicago, began with the loss of childhood. The loss of time spent with family, arguing over the best way to build a fire or how to cook a hamburger or who does the dishes. Learning why the sky is blue, or what love is. What you did or didn’t do in the war? And why. What star is that? What is right and what is wrong? What kind of wood is that made of? Where did you meet? How does it work? What is more important, and what is less–and living the proof of it.

But, I understand.

You have things to do. And I’ve got to go.




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