It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.- Frederick Douglass
Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children.- Walt Disney
There’s no point in being grown up if you can’t be childish sometimes. – Dr. Who
Obviously, the present times have been more than just a little bit discomfiting for just about all of the 7.5 billion inhabitants of this planet . Prior to the present zombie apocalypse, we were already facing existential threats from climate change, global hunger, migrations due to war, outright genocide and a litany of other human challenges not named after the 45th President of the United States. Indeed, he is just the tip of the ever-melting iceberg this planet is enduring at the moment. As we practice new norms like self-distancing and elbow bumps followed by self-imposed containment, I thought this might be a good time for reflection. There is only so much reading to do, so much TV to watch, so many movies to screen, so many cookies to eat (oops) before one inevitably has to kill time by turning the focus to one’s self and one’s loved ones. As I mentioned in the last Ledge (which was, in case you missed it, the 50th volume, which I was made aware of by the good people at Word Press) I am the proud grand uncle of a newborn baby girl. Now this young lady and her twoish year old brother are separated from me by many miles of continent North American style. I have previously made the acquaintance of the lad, as his first entrance was on the grand stage of Brooklyn, which is much closer to my island residence. But the girl, alas, has seen fit to debut her talents in sunny San Diego, CA. I hope someday to meet her as well in a few years’ time but I must admit that the distance is large and the sands in my own personal hour glass sit more now at the bottom than to the top. In these times there is so much I want to say to them, but there is a very good chance that by the time they are ready to hear it, I will be merely a picture in an old frame or someone appearing to converse with the nearest potted plants. So, in this time, I hope the rest of you will excuse me while I “chat” with the kids. But being that I believe we are all really just kids, you can listen in too.
Hi kids, I am your grand uncle. I remember when your mom was born. I remember well how happy your Grandpa and Grandma were when she joined them on this journey around the big ball of fire in the sky. I remember also when your Grandpa and Grandma were much younger ( but never younger than me) I remember when your Grandpa was a little taller and your Grandma, well come to think of it she hasn’t really changed that much. Here’s hoping you inherited that gene.
At the time of this writing the world is ill. It isn’t the first time it has been ill and it likely won’t be the last. Humanity suffers from much illness and in case you haven’t already figured it out you are humans. My condolences. Seriously, humans suffer from many maladies, a lot of them self-inflicted. For example, one of the most egregious character faults of mankind is its ability to foster something called war. This is brought about by any combination of factors but chief among them are greed, fear, and narcissism which can lead to things like misogyny, nationalism, racism, antisemitism, all of which are better referred to by their most common name, hate. Hate, like war, is not good. War involves massive killings of other human beings. This is usually done at the behest of people who themselves for the most part would never be caught dead in a war; they will leave that to you. They will cite many reasons why you should participate and for the most part none of those reasons will be good. There have been times when such killing has been unavoidable. For example, in the years before my own birth a mustachioed little narcissist got it into his mind that he wished to acquire a little real estate. That real estate was called Europe. In order to achieve this he demonized an entire race of “other” people in such a manner that he was able to convince millions of thick headed and desperate folks that the only way to gather this real estate, which he wished to share with them since he was such a generous guy, was to wipe out 6 million of those “other” people and before you could say Czechoslovakia he was on his way. So yeah, that had to be stopped and that meant war. But if steps had been taken by saner people both in and out of his country long before that fateful day perhaps the conflagration called World War II (Notice the II, which means the same idiocy was engaged in not long before) would not have happened. When it was all over 80 million people had perished, which was about three percent of the total world population at the time. People died in something called a genocide which was that mass killing referred to earlier of those “other” people. Others died as a result of something called the Manhattan Project, which was actually developed a long way from the actual Manhattan from where I write this, but rather in a place called New Mexico, which is sort of a misnomer, no one came along from This Old House and renovated Old Mexico. Anyway, these smart folks led by a guy named Oppenheimer discovered how to split an atom and viola we had ourselves a new and improved weapon of mass destruction which birthed a slew of other weapons that continue to terrorize us to this day. But that’s another story for another time. Many, many, many others died in the traditional ways of war. Shooting at each other with guns, slicing with knives, and in other forms of hand to hand combat, as well as aerial bombings and shelling from ships to shore. I have been told by some who have seen these events that not one of them is a pleasant way to die. Death by the way, in case you have not yet been advised, is something everyone eventually experiences. But from all the available anecdotal evidence it appears that war is not the ideal way to experience this inevitability.
The sickness we are experiencing now is an actual physical illness brought on by something called a virus, which some people refer to as a bug. Now, it is not a spider, or a butterfly or a cockroach but rather a bug you cannot see but which can make you very sick and in some cases can kill you as dead as a war. I’m sorry, that last statement implies there are degrees of death. There aren’t. Dead is just dead, no one can be more or less dead than anyone else. Anyway, right now a lot of people are getting sick from this bug, so everyone in the entire world is being told to stay home and stay away from each other because this bug can be easily passed. By the time you read this it should have been flushed out of our system. Then again by the time you read this you may be living on the rock circling our planet and you likely have become aware that it is not made of green cheese. And there is not a cow on earth capable of jumping over it.
Anyway, now that we have gotten all of that unpleasantness out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff. And there is lots of it. First of all, puppies, for they grow into dogs and they may grow to be your best friends so always be kind to them. Be kind to all animals, respect them all, that includes other humans who technically are also animals. This also includes cats, who might not respect you, in fact most of them could care less about you, but they’re cute and you don’t want to piss off their much larger cousins. Be nice to the kitty and if you’re ever stuck on the African savannah and Cousin Leo is looking for a snack you might have a karma card to play. Just sayin’. I have been told that kids who are unkind to animals have a way of growing into behavioral models for episodic television shows and it never ends well for those subjects.
Beyond the puppies, mom and dad. Respect them, you will have no idea until you get much older and your eldest relatives have filled little things called urns, what your mom and dad had to go through to bring you here. Now true, some of that was a lot of fun and you will learn more about that in something called human reproduction class, but a lot of it was hard work. Neither of you was an inexpensive proposition, meaning your parents had to work very hard so that you could feed your cute, chubby little faces, get the medical attention you will very definitely require over the years, get the schooling you deserve, the braces you may need. They will get up earlier in the morning than they may wish so you can have a decent breakfast and on weekends they will rise even earlier to run you out to whatever extracurricular activity you have taken an interest in eg: dance classes, piano lessons, basketball, baseball, hockey or soccer practice or any variety of other things during hours when an extra hour of sleep might be more desirable.
You will experience jealousy and envy. This does not make you a bad person. It is part of being human but please learn to spot the symptoms and teach yourself not to fall victim to their toxins. In the words of a great prophet “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try some time , you might find, you get what you need” You will not find these words in a book called the bible, you may find them on something called a record, something which I am sure by the time you read this will have totally disappeared from the vernacular, but if you should wish to explore this further seek something called “Let it Bleed” produced by some wise old vagabonds called The Rolling Stones. The did battle with a tribe called Beatles in an age before the Candy Crush, which hopefully by the time you read this has been cast into the dustbin of history.
Respect your bodies. Exercise and try to avoid fatty foods, except ice cream which no child should be deprived of at any age but use moderation or beware of the love handles you will grow when you mature. Avoid drugs. They will seem like fun, but they can suck your soul right out of you. Something called THC is more tolerable, but even that has its limits. I reached my own, limits that is, so I speak from experience. Thou shalt not smoke, for from wherever I may be planted I will find a way to haunt you and trust me, it will not be a pretty sight. This goes for vaping too. If you enjoy the wonderful things your kidneys and liver do for you then you will be careful with alcohol. A glass of wine with dinner, a beer while watching a ball game can be a nice thing. Multiple shots of whiskies with a lot of beer every evening may eventually lead to dialysis which is something your doctor can explain to you. It is not pleasant.
Love one another, love your folks and your family because believe me there are a lot of people in your tribe who love you and will be there to protect you and pull you out of any variety of the pitfalls life is likely to create for you. Treasure all of them. But also learn to love your fellow human. Even the ones you don’t know, even the ones you don’t particularly like. If this is confusing trust me , you will sometime, in the words of someone named Heinlein “grok” this. It is very possible to dislike someone and yet love them. For no matter how distasteful you may find them, they must have some reason for being here. Once upon a time in their own personal fairy tale they too came kicking and screaming into this world, just like you. Perhaps, due to circumstances beyond their control, they never learned to stop kicking and screaming. You don’t need to be best of friends with them. In fact, it may be more prudent with some of them to keep a safe distance. But never lose respect for their humanity. Don’t throw in with the forces of hate, you will always lose. And you are not a loser. You are my grandnephew and niece.
It may be difficult at times to discern but humans are basically good, though incredibly flawed. This box of a body does not come with instructions (not to be confused with instructors of which you should have plenty) or a warranty and expiration date. By the time we figure it out, if we figure it out, the bell tolls and we are reminded of what we have spent a whole life forgetting that this mortal coil must be shuffled off at some point and not necessarily to Buffalo, which is a lot colder than some of the other oft mentioned destinations for that moment. But, in that moment, love is all that matters and if we have achieved that, then we have done something that matters. Make your own mistakes, you will learn more from them than you can imagine. Don’t make mine, they’re already taken, and I am extremely possessive. Besides, you are both smarter than me.To quote that other tribe “Take a sad song and make it better”. I love you kids. Good luck on your journey.