Sometimes we post on things that have nothing to do with religion. Or, as Homer Simpson would say...do they?
For some time since the birth of my two young nephews, I've been thinking about how much childhood has altered since I was a boy. Yes, I know, blah, blah, blah: O tempora! O mores! Don't worry: I'm not about to launch into a lengthy excursis on how much better things were back then (i.e., the 70s), but merely make an observation. When I was in the First Grade, at age five or six, I used to walk to school, a distance of roughly a mile. Admittedly, it was through our neighborhood and sometimes it was with other kids, but still, my mother and father gave me the freedom to walk, or ride my bike, or meander, or even explore all the way to Ridge Park Elementary School in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. Today, I would wager, if a parent sent a five-year-old out alone, you would be arrested or at the very least thought a "bad" parent. Moreover, during the summertime, my sister and I were given free reign to explore the "woods" near our house, spending many hours with friends turning over rocks, making our way over small ravines, and building little forts when we had enough time, that is, when we weren't running into poison ivy, oak and sumac. And, to speak plainly, my parents were hardly the "lax" type. By no means.
Dilating on that theme is an elegiac article I can't get out of my head. It's by Michael Chabon, the talented author of Wonder Boys and The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. In a piece in The New York Review of Books called "Manhood for Amateurs: The Wilderness of Childhood," Chabon links the loss of that freedom to explore to the possibility that children will grow up without a sense (or less of a sense) of adventure and exploration. It's a great piece. Here's part of it.
"The thing that strikes me now when I think about the Wilderness of Childhood is the incredible degree of freedom my parents gave me to adventure there. A very grave, very significant shift in our idea of childhood has occurred since then. The Wilderness of Childhood is gone; the days of adventure are past. The land ruled by children, to which a kid might exile himself for at least some portion of every day from the neighboring kingdom of adulthood, has in large part been taken over, co-opted, colonized, and finally absorbed by the neighbors.
The traveler soon learns that the only way to come to know a city, to form a mental map of it, however provisional, and begin to find his or her own way around it is to visit it alone, preferably on foot, and then become as lost as one possibly can. I have been to Chicago maybe a half-dozen times in my life, on book tours, and yet I still don't know my North Shore from my North Side, because every time I've visited, I have been picked up and driven around, and taken to see the sights by someone far more versed than I in the city's wonders and hazards. State Street, Halsted Street, the Loop—to me it's all a vast jumbled lot of stage sets and backdrops passing by the window of a car.
This is the kind of door-to-door, all-encompassing escort service that we adults have contrived to provide for our children. We schedule their encounters for them, driving them to and from one another's houses so they never get a chance to discover the unexplored lands between. If they are lucky, we send them out to play in the backyard, where they can be safely fenced in and even, in extreme cases, monitored with security cameras. When my family and I moved onto our street in Berkeley, the family next door included a nine-year-old girl; in the house two doors down the other way, there was a nine-year-old boy, her exact contemporary and, like her, a lifelong resident of the street. They had never met." Read the rest here.
What, he wonders, will all of this do to our sense of adventure?
Or, I might add, of contemplation, of wonder, and of God?