Once upon a time, my parents sent me to a psychiatrist…They felt that my asthma might be “all in my head.” I, on the other hand, was pretty sure that I wasn’t making this stuff up, especially since my breathing problems seemed to be confined to Spring.
However, Mommy and Daddy said I should go, and off I went.
Dr. Scott was a pleasant man. He paid attention when I talked to him about my life and my real, or imagined, problems. But I had read, and been told, that people often fell in love with their doctors. So I asked him about that.
He patiently explained the idea of “transference” to me. Told me how people focused on their doctor as the source of comfort and reassurance.
“For instance,” he said, “How do you feel about ME?”
I gave it serious thought. He was nice, kind, attentive and apparently caring but…
“For me, I finally said, “You sort of fade in to the wall paper. I mean, it’s nice you listen to me, but you wouldn’t if my parents weren’t paying you. What I REALLY want is someone who will listen to me because they want to.”
I, like many other older Americans, sometimes sigh in despair over “What is happening to the youth of America? What ARE their parents thinking?”
What this really means is that we, parents who have already raised our children – usually to the best of our limited abilities – are astounded at “what parents let their kids get away with these days.”
The most frequent response is – “Haven’t people been asking that since Cain killed Abel?”
And, yes, we the people have been asking that question for practically ever.
Speaking pragmatically, I’m suggesting in-breeding from the get-go. After all, who was there to mate excepting a brother or sister no matter how many times removed?
However, I am looking now for a more up to date reaction to the question. Is it the same question we have always asked, and are children no better – or no worse – than they have ever been? And is it the parents fault?
First off, let me make something perfectly clear. I admire young people. They are the only hope of the world. I admire how brilliantly they all adapt to the latest inventions…things that baffle me entirely. They don’t even have to read all the impossible directions that are so thoughtfully included in every box. Five year olds seem to know instinctively what everything is for. They speak digital fluently. I don’t.
But I see things about today’s younger generations that worry me mightily. I fear the growing remoteness. Today’s generation is buried behind its incredibly involved – and ever evolving – electronics.
Parents are still pushing babies in their little strollers but Mom or Dad is frequently also involved in a conversation with someone on a Smart Phone. What’s worse, I am told that there are strollers being developed with built-in diversions so that Mother isn’t really required to pay attention to Baby, who will be gurgling happily at a small screen which pictures Mother Nature in all her glory. with intensified colors to keep the little ones amused.
So what happens when baby looks up at a real tree? Is he or she disappointed that the green isn’t that same breath taking crayon box color the child has come to expect? Are the real life flowers that are in varying stages of opening, glowing briefly, then dying, a disappointment? The flowers on the screen don’t die. They are glorious…all the time. People don’t grow old as a rule…They stay beautiful until they are beaten to death by a bunch of incredibly ugly zombies. But they’ll show up in the next show anyway, so not to worry.
So my big problem with today’s youth is that they are once, twice, three times removed from the real world of births and deaths and illness and beauty and love and kindness. They are being insulated from reality by devices meant to make the world a better place – if not through electronics then through chemistry.
One of the joys of my family’s life was “going for a ride.” We didn’t have a destination…just some place pretty. Someplace where the mountains rose majestically into the air and the children could supply their own stories about the giants who live there, in harmony with great, exciting lions and tigers and bears…Oh my!…
Grand expanses of butter cups stretched for miles and the kids could concoct a hymn to their beauty. Along the highways and the quiet side roads to not much of anywhere, millions of flowers bloomed and perfumed the air…even though, when seen on private lawns those same beauties were identified as weeds.
That doesn’t happen today. Today’s cars arrive with television screens so that the children don’t have to look out windows for their entertainment. They don’t have to actively DO anything…It is all done FOR them.
They don’t even sing to live music anymore. Their accompanist is a karaoke machine…and there is no need to learn the words because they carry a smart phone on which they can summon up the lyrics – without a clue as to their meaning .
It is already a cliché – a cartoon – that two people having lunch together don’t necessarily speak to each other at all. Rather they text somebody someplace else. Maybe the cute kid at the table to the left.
I think one of the saddest scenes I’ve ever watched on television was on The Big Bang Theory when Leonard explained that he once invented a robot arm that he could program to hug him occasionally when he’d had a triumph or a disaster in his life – and Mom was too busy being a professional success to pay attention.
Of course it was an exaggeration but the inspiration came from something in the current world’s social climate.
Why have we come to this point? Why is emotion so suspect that it can only be expressed through the impersonal devices that are taking over our world? Or suppressed by a potent pill?
Can’t sleep? Take a pill. Can’t wake up? Take a different pill. Mother died?…here..take a pill. Cheer up!
I think the word for this month is EMPATHY
In my crossword puzzle dictionary the words used to explain empathy include compassion, warmth and fellow-feeling. Those are all good words. They mean that one person offers concentrated attention to another person – usually in times of great stress or sorrow. Even when there are no television cameras on hand to prove how much you REALLY care.