Right across my workplace there is a public primary school (which looks like a renovated, clean prison). I think it is actually a prison, but we’ll talk about it (or maybe not) another day. Today is sort of Halloween Day and kids at school are celebrating. They are all dressed up, wearing their masks and costumes. I see them right from the shop’s window. Although I am grateful they are having a costume party cause it gives me the chance to be absorbed by them, stare at them and wander, instead of paying attention to all the crap I hear from most of the customers, I must say I am disappointed…no actually what I feel is not utter disappointment but an infinite sadness.. If Piaget were here, sitting next to me, we would have made very noticeable observations, over a cup of coffee.
Sad and grief. I feel I am mourning . I am not a widower but today I mourn for the death of childhood. I see them all running up and down the school yard, adapting to their social role…what they chose to wear today depicts the way, they chose to play with each other.
I see girls dressed as queens with long and fancy dresses. They wear jewelry and have little shinny crowns on top of their heads. They are all waiting for prince charming to rescue them from their misery. They wear make up. I see other girls dressed like pop stars…I won’t bother to describe what they chose to wear cause I might throw up. They are annoyed that everyone is not paying enough attention to them. I see boys dressed up as soldiers, holding guns, shooting at each other (the princesses seem to fancy those). I see super heroes acting like they own this world, like there is NOONE better in this world but them (pop stars trying to show off), and now the creepiest part of all…I see that three kids chose to be dressed as a police officer (I write this word although I want to write another one).That uniform makes me sick .They have it all: helmet, gun you name it. It’s there.
And I am thinking…What is wrong? What went wrong? I remember back in my days, we were all dressed up (boys and girls) as smurfs, wizards, flowers, Indians, clowns, bees, pirates, ghosts, cats, fairies. It is not my attempt to make a psychosocial case study out of this: what went wrong or who’s to blame…I could easily blame the parents for letting their child to dress like this but then…poor them, they just need a break from all this, they have enough on their heads to worry about, or I could blame society and the constant unbearable stereotype that stands and always will, throughout time: a girl must be a princess and a boy must be a soldier. The first one is carrying a crown, the latter is carrying a gun. Fuck me.
Do we really want to put such pressure to those magical little creatures in such an early and introductory state of both body and mind? For how long we will keep reading those stories full of propaganda: Cinderella, sleeping beauty, prince charming, the bad wolf, the bad wizard. Why most of all fairy tales end up with a girl falling in love with a boy and at the end, they end up married? Is it so hard to just be friends? (Ok sometimes it is).
We are all cosmic children. Speaking the same language, having the same affections and insecurities. We all seek love, cosmic love; we all seek solitude, constructive and healing solitude. We are all listening to the same melody. We want to be part of the Whole but also to keep our uniqueness, while doing so. It’s not right to patronize children just because they are children. It is not right to talk with silly voices so they can hear us, because they do hear us, no matter what. Children should be treated as adults-because we adults are certainly, no better than them. Their nervous system, their sensory integration and brain are on the peak, whilst ours, is on decay…Although we enjoy flattering ourselves by saying that we are becoming wiser by the years, in fact, we become more stupid and narrow minded.
Indeed these little creatures absorb everything that surrounds them, like a sponge, with such speed and ease: music, colors, words, feelings. That is why, if we want to help them develop as great citizens and good people, it is our duty to provide them with wonderful poetry, adventurous stories, exceptional music and the most important thing: teach them by early age that a stranger is also family. That a family doesn’t consist only by the immediate people who surround them i.e. mother/father/lovers/brothers/sisters/aunts/uncles/cousins etc…A family is also a neighbor, a fellow citizen, their teachers, a great book, a person in need..Only then, love and affection, help and understanding, respect and appreciation will expand outside the boundaries of ‘home’ into the streets, into the city, into the whole country, into the whole world.
I am not sure I want to have a child but even though I am keen on the idea sometimes , I want to raise it somewhere far away from iphones, school systems that imprison the spirit, away from fashion that traps the body to an alienated role. My child will not be mine per se. it will belong first and foremost to its own self/being, it will be the child of my neighbor, my friend’s, a ‘stranger’s’, a flower’s. My wonderful friends can learn so many things to that child that I cannot. A stranger might be able to teach it things I am not even aware of. This is a universal child. This is, indeed, a citizen of the world. Let us not kill the little child that exists within us all. Instead embrace it. Let’s goof around, take our cloths off, hold hands and laugh, scream and roll down the hill. Let’s draw each other faces, not judge, sit by the fire and listen to the wonderful thoughts (comparable to a fairy tale) of Hermann Hesse. After all, it is not the fairy tale per se that does the trick but the tone of the narrator’s voice:
‘’For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.
A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.
A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.
When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. . . . Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.
A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.
So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.’’
-Hermann Hesse, Trees: Reflections and Poems, 1984-
I truly believe that if every child was listening to this fairy tale, before they got to bed, this world would be a better place.