Within the 'old world' mindset of black and white, success and failure, right and wrong, people who are trying to make their way in the world often get stuck - no longer knowing how to express the innate childlike goodness inside them. Very often we find ourselves caught in a dichotomy between what we are taught and what we intrinsically know. And then, sometimes, usually when we least expect it, shocking things happen that open us up to the realisation that things are not just cut and dry. According to physics, black is the absence of colour and white the blending of all colours, yet human experience teaches that 'all colour' exists in the bigger picture of human vision. With or without our eyes, we create our own colours.
Yesterday I opened Facebook, and as I awoke to the reality of my youngest daughter's new business, I remembered a young man I recently met and looked for the connection between them. Allen is 16-years-old, 6'3" (190.5 cm), with a voice that matches his clear deep eyes. He is interested in anything except science. Allen has grown up with science, and although he always reads his father's new papers on his latest discoveries, Allen doesn't share his enthusiasm. They want different things.
Allen's father came to Munich with a purpose. He was delivering the results of last year's work to a science convention here. Allen's mother came along with her two sons and was enjoying the sights. Knowing who he is and what he wants, Allen was trying to make the best of being 16. With his future all mapped out, but still a ways in the future, anything he did now was just killing time until he was old enough to put on the uniform he dreamed of wearing. It was clear that only once he was strapped into his military colours would he finally feel the fullness of his height and feel he was doing something useful. Like most people, Allen listened to the news and was worried about the many seen and unseen dangers threatening the USA. While his parents are Chinese, Allen is American through and through. His attitude is, "If America needs good men to defend its borders and honour, my country can count on me." He is not afraid of fighting for what is right somewhere in a distant future and mentally he is already committed. Laying aside his childhood is not just a privilege but a duty. "I'm not a kid anymore. Playtime is over," he told me.
A few years ago, I would have been afraid if I heard a young man talking about preparing for war. I would have felt the clash between Allen's dreams and my own so acutely I would have rushed to defend my dream of world peace. But experience has changed me. It was refreshing to hear a young man following his heart. I felt empathy and respect for him. And still, in honouring his truth I had to honour my own. For it wasn't just Allen's desire to live a good life that I saw. As serene as Allen appeared on the outside, on the inside his body was wired up like a cheetah about to pounce on its prey, every hair on its body standing up on alert and every muscle strained in tension. However, unlike the cheetah who would simply unwind its muscles and stroll away if the hunt wasn't right, Allen was stuck on 'set to go.' "This isn't a time to relax," he said in deadly earnest. But he listened carefully as I told him what life had taught me about stress.
How 'kids' came to be so important to me is a story that began through the process of learning to birth and mother my own. It is said that children are our greatest teachers and mine certainly are. My first-born came to show me that love is real and to help me to feel it. My second-born, to teach me that beneath the illusions exists truth. My third-born, to show me individuality and the simple joy that comes with freedom of expression. And my fourth-born, to teach me to trust. Arriving between my experiences of repressed conformity in childhood and eye-opening education in late adulthood, I eventually came to see young people as treasure chests of unlimited potential just waiting to be discovered. Growing up through my own acute fears of the world's seen and unseen dangers and my late awareness of media propaganda, I have a different relationship with my youngest daughter than many mothers. In response to my growing fear, I remortgaged my house, took her out of mainstream education, and sent her to a free school where she was taught not to listen to adults but to make her own mind up. Like Allen, not only is she naturally inclined toward goodness and wanting to do good in the world, but also very smart. To make her way in the world, she created a business plan 'par excellence' that ensured she would earn money fairly by selling fair trade while supporting local charities each month. Yet in between the conception and implementation of her highly praised plan, Jessie visited Amsterdam where her views on the rights and wrongs of marijuana were changed. Experiencing marijuana as socially acceptable to the Dutch police and smokers non-criminal, instantly turned the question of the legality of cannabis in England into a moral judgement she now disagrees with.
Whilst Allen has joined the many who have developed a relationship with their president to feel secure in life, Jessie has joined the many who have not only developed a relationship with marijuana, but also who stand up to defend the right to live in peace with a product that, to her, is a natural antidote to the acute symptoms of fear that she herself inherited through living in a social world that is hell bent on destroying itself - driven as it is to endless warring for power. The only good thing to her about her panic attacks is the recent knowledge that they are simply panic attacks and not evidence that she is mad. At 20, Jessie has already suffered a lifetime's worth of stress, anxiety, and depression. But it is not just her hurt heart that prompted the decision to sell legal marijuana paraphernalia. She plans to make money on a product that people really want.
Just as I listen to her, she listens to me as I tell her what cannabis taught me about stress and what subsequent meditation continues to teach me about real self-control in the face of fears I still have to manage when they are triggered. But rare is the school in England that promotes transcendental meditation as a way to conscious self-knowledge. Meditation has yet to become fashionable to the young.
Whether my daughter's business is a moral crusade I cannot be sure, but I remember how we mature adults and parents did things and needed things along the way of our own young lives to help us deal with our fears at different stages. And in this acceptance of ourselves and the wisdom we have gained through our own journeys, I ask how will we begin to restructure society so that our children can play safely knowing that consciousness is the goal of humanity, ethics is at the heart of all politics, a human being's first responsibility is self-responsibility, and our first commitment is to our own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual good health.
In the meantime, in the rich business that war and peace is in the social world of politics, economics, education, medicine, and trade, it is not just Jessie and Allen I trust to find their way to their own inner truth and peace, but every young person on this planet.