My son is five and perhaps because of this makes the most profound statements. They are such simple observations, not loaded yet with assumptions, judgements, history.
“I’m tired of being human”, he said to me.
“Oh really, why’s that”, I replied as I settled in for another existential voyage of discovery.
First some context. There was an ugly episode earlier at a barber’s shop where my son outright refused to get his hair cut. Think stubborn donkey, (a trait he gets from his mother by the way). No bribe, no threat, no force on this earth was getting him into that chair. Also to note, the incident was proceeded by days of simple enjoyment; the joy and the freedom of vacation. It may have been the unfettered merriment of holidays juxtaposed by the necessity of personal grooming that focused his thoughts thus.
“Humans have to think”, he continued.
“That’s right”, I replied, “But what’s wrong with thinking?”
“You have to do stuff, follow rules. I want to be a fish. Fish don’t have to follow rules.”
We then ran through the relative merits of being chased by sharks versus having to brush your teeth, swimming in a school versus going to school. Each human condition he dismissed as just having way too many rules with too much thinking involved. Not as cool as being a fish, a monkey or an allosaurus.
Humans must be mindful and conform beyond the extent of our animal brethren. Quite the realization for a five year old. Quite a setback to his freedom, to just being. Of course, we do and we must grow up and of course he’s reacting to being told what to do. But I sense he feels his mind being crowded in. His self is emerging and he’s feeling a sense of loss for what is larger than the self. Each step toward his identity, is a step away from true liberty. C’est la vie; sometimes we are free, sometimes we are not. We must live in this world, in this community.
If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.
― Albert Einstein
Yet we are not confined to the necessities of life nor the self that develops as we age. And we do not have to relinquish the benefits of an uncluttered, open mind. Despite spending most of our time within a bounded self we can observe from outside these confines and, potentially, make adjustments to what’s inside. We are capable of our own evolution. We are co-creators. Of course, knowing what to change and making change happen are two very different things. Our thoughts can easily outstrip our actions. However, we have the ability to define our own state and what we do with this power is what, perhaps, defines us as a human. This is a grave and great responsibility, magnificent and terrifying. Some have broken their program others have transcended it. Some are lost, some are found.
Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.
― Sigmund Freud
So yes, humans have to think and follow rules and this can be quite the burden. But we are also capable of awareness and growth. A boundless opportunity is in our grasp but the cost of owning it is responsibility.
And then I impart my closing argument, “What about donuts? Fish can’t have donuts.”
“You want a donut?”
“Okay, let’s go get a donut. After you’ve finished your homework.”
The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.
― Jim Morrison