Most likely I’ll flounder with this article, but that’s OK if it generates some thoughts and discussions about the disconnect we are seeing around the world with growing divisiveness everywhere. So get your paper and pencils out and hang in there. I look forward to your comments and suggestions.
A couple of days ago an African-American friend stopped over. The conversation got around to kids and he shared the difficulty of raising two sons, especially guiding them through their teenage years. He said there was a tremendous amount of pressure to have a reputation on the street – credibility amongst your peers. You’d be dead if you waited for the bus with a violin case, an armful of books, or a yoga mat. There was no room for pushback. A bad rep could come from doing homework, answering a question correctly in class, or confessing you wanted to go to college. It just wasn’t cool.
My kids passed that stage a generation before his. We’re white. Less pressure but it was there then too – that needs to be cool. Or maybe that was mine – being cool and being part of the in-crowd. Yup, there has always been pressure to have a reputation which seldom came from winning a spelling bee.
With the current pervasive and invasive presence and use of social media, for young people, it’s become “Reputation on Steroids.” They are made aware of what they need to do to have a reputation and it happens way before they even get close to being teenagers.
I don’t think that need for a reputation ever goes away. It becomes more subtle and hence more insidious. We need a bigger car, a larger house, flashier clothes, etc. otherwise we are failures. And no one wants to be a failure so we get sucked into the whirlpool. Ouch.
And then my friend suggested that he should have tried harder to instill a deeper sense of responsibility in his kids – to themselves and their family. Teach them that their actions reflect on both themselves and others. They shouldn’t be tied to their peers pulling stunts on the street but asking themselves what is right or is that wrong. Good questions – true for all of us. A strong sense of responsibility to oneself and family is an important foundation stone in any society.
I been thinking about the challenge of growing up responsibly and eventually, I thought of another R: Relationship. How we define our relationship to the larger community and by extension to the world at large. Without making such connections we’re bound to fail. Society can easily descend into continual confrontations – my gang vs your gang all the way up to my country vs your country, my books vs your books, my, etc. vs yours etc. Not a great future for anyone. And in part, many of the larger global challenges from climate changes, to wars and refugees, to migrants, to drugs, etc. can be traced to the lack of connection to others, viz., as long as I get mine why should I care about others? And Who cares what happens to the planet – I’ll be long gone by then. All festering because people have disconnected from others, not of their family, political party, religion, etc.
This disconnect from others is a disconnect from self and is similar to a sailboat without a keel making it impossible for it to navigate through the heavy winds of life.
It’s an interesting challenge being responsible to self, family, as well as society at large. If we haven’t learned how or why as kids it’s extremely hard now. But we needn’t look for perfection especially if “perfection” requires a disconnect of the train as in the film clips advertising an Italian beer.
I believe the following three things can help. I’ve written about them before on this site.
- Charity. When I take the responsibility to give a coin daily (or consistently) I take from myself and connect to others.
- Random Acts of Loving Kindness. Simple things like picking up litter connect with the community around you; volunteer work is another way.
- Smiles. Your chest out and proud, you greet people with a smile and an open heart.
All three contribute to your strength and reputation, from moment to moment, a day at a time.
Ken was a Professor of Mathematics, a ceramicist, a welder, and an IBMer until downsized in 2000. He taught yoga until COVID-19 decided otherwise. He continues writing, living with his wife and beagle in Shorewood, Wisconsin. He enjoys chamber music and mysteries. He’s a homebrewer and runs whitewater rivers. Ken is a writer and his literary works can be found at https://www.kmkbooks.com/
He welcomes feedback on his articles and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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