It is 7:31 PM on Thursday September 14th. We just got back from swim class. The instructors there appear to all be high school kids and I overheard one of them tell a student she was 16 years old and a junior. This was another reminder to me about how quickly time passes. I was 24 and in Japan when she was born. To me Japan doesn’t seem terribly long ago but for her it is a lifetime. As I watched my son’s swim class I noticed all the high school kids walking by and wondered what their experience was like; did they have the same thoughts and emotions or do they think differently in this technological age? The only word I can think of to explain myself is zeitgeist: is the mood, or spirit of this age similar to the one I experienced?
I thought about my own son growing up and how I would explain high school. In elementary school you’re like a caterpillar: life is brand new, you’re ambling about exploring, eating and growing. Then in high school you enter a cocoon where you’re preparing to become an adult still very much protected from the world and guided along. By senior year you think you know everything there is to know and have it all together: perhaps you have a nice car, a girlfriend and plans for the future. Then in college that cocoon is removed and you’re encouraged to start flying on your own: nobody is there to push and pull you along. You either get a job or go to college. If you go to college then you must select your own classes, get to those classes and pass or your soon shown the door.
Looking at the older high school kids tonight they were all so confident, hiding any insecurities, the world is theirs! I wondered if they would make the same mistakes many of my classmates made. Some became pregnant senior year, others didn’t do well with their grades, some got into terrible car wrecks and others did too many drugs. Many of these mistakes – especially getting pregnant or doing drugs – still follow them throughout their lives now. I noticed how young some of the students looked and thought about some of my own classmates who were even having sex as a freshman. How young, how stupid that was! High school is a time to develop and grow; if you make too big of a mistake in high school it could set a course for the rest of your life. But as a senior they’ve got everything already figured out don’t they?
I grew up so much in college and especially in my 20s living overseas. I have learned much and in this study I’ve learned how I know very little! Learning is a lifelong experience and those that keep learning realize how little they know, those that do not continue to grow think they have everything all figured out.
On the way home my son said he wanted to do iPad and if he didn’t get to he would be bored. I said look around you and see how interesting the world is. He said it was not interesting. I said how about trees? He replied that trees are boring, they’re just trees! I said well do you know all the names of the trees? Do you know how a tiny little seed can grow into a very large tree? What are inside the seeds that make them grow so big? If seeds create trees and trees create seeds then which came first? I don’t think he understood that last question very well especially. Most adults don’t understand that question very well either so he is forgiven. I understand the question but I do not know the answer.
I said look at the clouds, where do they come from? Look at the ocean, what lies beneath? Look at the stars and how far away they are! There is so much to learn, so much to know and even after studying for a lifetime one still doesn’t have all the answers. Everything around us is amazing!
In my current issue of Lapham’s Quarterly the subject is “Discovery.” One article describes how much the author learned from a spider. He stuck his pencil in the web and the spider vibrated that strand so fast to catch whatever struck it. The spider is unaware of everything outside of that web, it does not know that there is a human being very near and this human being tapped his web with a pencil. The spider lives in his own universe and has ‘spider thoughts’ and these spider thoughts comprise his entire universe. So to are we limited by our senses, very much unaware of everything that might be occurring around us that we simply cannot perceive. In our arrogance we think we are very advanced as a species. But for those that continue to learn you eventually come to a time when you realize there must be so much happening around us that like the spider we just don’t and cannot perceive. The world and entire universe is no longer ‘boring’ but a place of intense amazement and even fear.
If we could just for a moment, be teleported into deep space and just take a moment to experience the grandness of the universe I’m sure it would make everyones heart race with extreme fear and excitement. The billions of stars, the terrible black holes, violent explosions and creation happening right in front of us would be a spiritual experience indeed.
But my fear right now is not of black holes, terrible explosions or the infiniteness of space; it is that of a skunk. The sun has set, and the world has become dark with only the sound of wind through vague outlines of trees and I smell a skunk. I’ve seen a skunk from time to time through my window and I wonder if he came close to my little man cave and sprayed a bit when he realized some large ape was sitting in front of a light making a tapping sound whilst writing a post. It makes me think that maybe we do not need to be teleported to deep space to have the same feeling. Perhaps just sitting in very remote woods at night, while looking up at the stars and hearing the noises of all the unseen animals and other sounds of the wood could also be an amazing experience. No city noises, lights or anything like that, just a human being, all alone in the middle of the woods at night.
Well, the time is now 8:00 PM and that means bedtime. I’m still not back to my routine of working out at 4:00 AM so I better get to bed.