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I was watching a re-run from November 10, 1998, of the Politically Incorrect talk show tonight, and I heard comedian Jerry Lewis say something about raising children that was both shocking and sensible at the same time. He said, "If you raise your kid right, you could take him into a brothel and it wouldn't change anything."
I think I got his point. I have come to believe that what's "out there" is not as important as what's "in here" - what's in ourselves. It's like the way we are always inhaling cancer-producing pollutants in the air we breathe, and ingesting cancer-creating chemicals in the foods we eat; yet, in spite of all that, many of us do not get cancer.
It's about building up an immunity to the things that could hurt us.
One of the scariest killer diseases of all time was the black plague. It killed, I think, about one quarter the population of Europe. But it didn't kill the other three quarters, who must have had immune systems strong enough to resist the same disease that killed so many others. So what is the real problem with a potential danger like a killer plague?
Is it the plague, or the person?
After the school shootings in Columbine, Colorado, all America is trying to find what caused two middle-class teenagers from supposedly "good" homes to get guns and murder their fellow students, and try to blow up the school. People want to put the "blame" on something, yet when they choose something to blame, there is always an exception that makes the theory unrealistic. If it's those shoot'em up video games, then why don't all the other kids who play them turn out to be killers with real guns? If it's the violent movies Hollywood keeps producing, why don't all the viewers turn into violent thugs? If it's insufficient "gun control", then why don't all the people who own guns shoot people with them? If it's "bad parenting", why do some kids with the worst parents grow up into great adults?
With all the "evil" in the world, why is there so much "good"? The answer, I believe, is that everything "in" this world is dual in nature, and we have a choice - which is the essence of Free Will. With no choice, how could we be free to use our Free Will to make our own decisions and act on them? So the real problem which underlies most of the "bad things" in this world is that we choose to do things which are either good for us or bad for us - or good for others or bad for others.
The problem isn't that there are "good" things and "bad" things out there to choose between; it is the way we choose that makes things good or bad for us. There are volcanoes that erupt and spill molten lava into the valleys below, but you can choose not to live beneath a volcano. There are rivers that often flood their banks, but you can choose to build your home on higher ground.
For a long time to come, there will probably be lots of "bad" things "out there" in this world, and in the place where we live. We probably can't get them all to go away, so if we want the children to be "safe" and have "happy" lives, then the solution is to teach them how to choose the best ways to be safe and happy.
Maybe we haven't really learned too well ourselves how to choose what is best for us? We could start by paying attention to the consequences of our own choices, so we can see what works and what doesn't work for us. Then we can teach the children what we have learned from our own experiences, and teach them how to learn the way we learned. And we can learn from the successes and failures of others, by reading, watching, listening, and considering what would work for us too.
Instead of focusing on ways to "get rid of" the things which we think are "bad" for the children, and taking away the choices to do them or avoid doing them, or have them or avoid having them; we could focus on learning what to avoid and what not to avoid. We could learn to become "immune" to the "bad" things, and show the children how to become "immune" too, and how to choose what is best for them.
The Jerry Lewis solution is echoed in the words of the song by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young:
"Teach your children well..."
©1999 by Michael Star
See previous Michael's Musings columns at June 1999 archive.
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