“No one ever really sees a flower anymore.” — Georgia O’Keeffe
A rose doesn’t decide to provide its fragrance only for good people, nor deny its beauty to even the most evil people on earth. And a tree offers shade to anyone who comes under its umbrage. Also, with no discrimination.
Beautiful fragrance on any day, and shade from sweltering humidity must be considered an offering of love. Not to folks who make a great (unwarranted) distinction between flowers, trees and humankind, of course. But, in fact, such sweetness offered up unconditionally to one and all must be considered an act of love. At least for the length of this article.
Seriously, let’s look at the joy and relief described above as a form of love. If one does, it’ll be easier to see the counterpart that is found in the realm of children. Children don’t distinguish between this one and that one until they’re taught to label good and evil. Their love is as unconditional as that of the trees and flowers. Early on.
It’s later when a kid is asked to draw, say, Mommy, and is directed to create stick figures, that things change (for the worse). Left alone a child will be inclined — if in healthy relationship to a mother — to draw something that looks like a mountain. That’s because the most meaningful moments with the mother come when the parent is putting the little one to bed. Or feeding the boy or girl. Close up. Intimate moments like that in close proximity contribute to the mountain-looking drawing emerging from the pencil.
Try this with someone very young if you don’t believe me. You’re sure to find out that what I’m saying is true. The proof will be in the pudding, unquestionably. For decades I’ve been confirming that it’s when an uncle or aunt or parent or teacher corrects a child’s drawing that something other than the proverbial mountain appears on the paper. It doesn’t have to be replaced by a stick figure, though that’s the most commonly urged substitute. Whatever the case, something else is recommended, suggested or insisted upon. Something the child doesn’t see or feel. The mountain won’t do. Realism must prevail over visceral imagination, emotional sight.
So-called realism, I should say. For, obviously, we’re witnessing adults have their way with youngsters here. They’re being told how to see, what to see.
The main point for the purposes of this piece, however, is that unconditional love is tampered with also. Adults make distinctions for children which youngsters would not necessarily make for themselves, the plot points of Lord of the Flies notwithstanding.
The literature on this subject arguing this way and that can be consulted at another time. Here, I simply want to use my point of view as a point of departure for underscoring that trees provide shade even for those approaching them with chainsaws, clearly intending to cut them down. And that children — people — are capable of loving others unconditionally too. Like trees and flowers.
That is not practical in this increasingly problematic world, some say. But that’s getting away from seeing that short of that — short of insisting upon unconditional love for humankind and all of Mother Earth’s lovely creatures, the gamut of what we’ve been given to live alongside — there’s no progress possible. If authentic love is not embraced by the reader each and every moment, no movement comprised of concerned citizens will make lasting advances. Love must be at the core.
My experience in the activist realm over many decades has been full of examples of “concerned citizens” being anything but loving when push comes to shove with their allies, let alone vis-a-vis their enemies. I think that anyone who’s been around long enough, and who has been paying enough attention to comrades and colleagues and others will confirm the truth of what I’m saying.
Certainly, it’s obvious that the opposition currently battling so-called progressives is being related to as deplorable. Not with love. I’m talking here about all of the supporters of causes which do not resonate well with liberals and the like. Which rile up — by their very existence — the radicals who fancy that they’ve got The Answer.
A child watching someone approach with a chainsaw these days will recoil in horror, most likely. And one of the reasons for that is that all children are drowning in a sea of entertainment that is festooned with violence and fear. One might say that it’s a sign of health for a youngster to back away from anyone carrying such a frightening item. But… I’m spotlighting the fact that entertainment these days itself is a chainsaw of sorts. And our children are being cut down — their capacity to give relief and love to others is being diminished daily — by very many elements in our sick society. Leaving adults with the responsibility of coming up with solutions.
Well, I’m a parent with three children, an adult who has worked on behalf of the welfare of children for over half-a-century, and I have a solution to this horrid momentum I’ve delineated. I highly recommend that all adults acknowledge that our societal fear is a function, in great part, of the diversions on our screens. The films, series, photographs, drawings, etc. that fill our days and nights without our seeing them as chainsaws in the lives of children. And not enable such experiences.
When a child is very young looking out onto the wider world and at the facts of life right in front of her or his face, the kid doesn’t see sharp blades or hear the ugly whirring sound of a mechanical power-driven cutting tool. Rather, the child cuts its teeth on beauty and the sweet relief offered by loved ones, if allowed to blossom in a welcoming, peaceful environment.
The child has to be taught to take chainsaws into its quiet little life.
There are chainsaws out there, yes. But they must not be all we see. Otherwise, the rose will only stink, all shadows will be ominous, and mountains will sink below our horizons, invisible. Making a mockery of activism. Fakery of far more.
Richard Martin Oxman has been an educator and activist for over half-a-century. He can be reached at email@example.com