Don’t just listen to your elders…

My life has, in its entirety, been a process of constantly updating a list of instructions to follow so as to have a better… life. I mean, yes, I’ve had a childhood, an adolescence, early adulthood and, just like everyone, picking the best of them is nerve-wracking even to me. Still, the one thing, that hasn’t changed throughout all of these periods of my life, is the inflow of instructions.

These instructions kept piling over the years, and for a very long time there were not as many to really impede my way of living. Life was too smooth a ride for me to notice the kinks. I made it through each chapter unscathed. My life was full of cherishable moments. But it all suddenly disappeared one day – for all I know, a random quantum fluctuation that triggered a train of thought – the day I realised that none of it is real. That was the day I broke free of the massive self-mind-control we were inflicting upon everyone and ourselves. In essence, we are all trapped in an illusion. That was the day I started to see everything – past and present – more analytically.

I began training myself to turn into a walking observatory. The dark recesses of my brain are always occupied in doing the grunt work necessary to feed me processed information off the raw data. Okay, that didn’t seem as impressive as I hoped it would sound. Well, we all have some basal instincts at work constantly making snap judgments for us. That’s essentially why you end up disliking people at a glance and, only years later, discover how nice they’ve always been. Many of us like to brag about our built-in grammar correction mechanism, and how handy it is when watching a political debate. It’s all simply trained instinct.

Well, I have that, times infinity. What I have is not so much a special skill in itself; the specialty lies in the fact that no one would bother to cultivate an analytical mind. And I wouldn’t force anyone to try it out; it has an intense side-effect – the danger of overanalysing. Once you’ve picked up speed, you thirst for more thinking. So, it won’t be pretty for everyone. You’d beg your mind to shut up and let you fall asleep but it won’t comply. The difference between you and a layman will exponentially increase every single moment and you’ll get more and more disjunct from their reality. Better I than anyone. I’ve decided to use my brain to help you all disillusion yourselves.

One of the most dangerous illusions we’ve all accommodated in our lives is believing in the authority of our apparently infallible elders. Those, older than we, have taken it upon themselves to tell us what we ought to do, from the moment we’re born. Most of us don’t realise, that they’re just people and they have just as much of a chance of being wrong about something as anybody, until it’s too late. We’ve been fed instructions more than we have food for sustenance and growth. In a way, we’re no more than robots living out their lives by proxy.

Don’t get me wrong. Our elders are definitely needed for our survival; they’re the only ones who are truly hard-coded to care about your welfare, although major religions have managed to override some of it. Evolution has rendered us pretty incapable of defending ourselves from physical dangers up to our toddler ages. I bet that a life without human elders would, most likely, not be like Tarzan. Still, if you have a choice between rational humans, lunatic or religious humans, and animals, I’d say go for animals before the lunatic humans unless you’re a masochist.

But, in all seriousness, the problem I’ve had with my elders has been with respect to their complete disregard, to the simple courtesy of offering me a reasonable explanation as to why their instructions matter. I mean, I’d likely be more comfortable following each and every one of them if I know I’m not just performing a mindless ritual. The words, ‘Because I said so’, never really help in such situations. If anything, it makes me curious and compels me to put such instructions to the test.

If you’re not one of those kind of elders, good for you; your pupils must be glad. The rest of you can simply do your part to be the guardian you’ve never had.

‘Don’t accept things from strangers. They might poison and kidnap you.’, is a more effective instruction than the one missing that latter sentence. It is important that a person be familiar with the reasoning for an advice, so that they’re aware of the consequences they might face from going against it. The human being is an information hungry creature. Knowing more about how they can go wrong will help them make conscious decisions about how they’d like to proceed. People like making full use of all the data at hand whenever possible. The more the data, the greater is that person’s feeling of the sense of being in control.

If there is a possibility of a punishment, please, for the love of the universe, tell them that in advance. You wouldn’t want a child to have the impression that you just want them to obey you. You don’t want someone to do the right thing just to avoid adversity; you ought to want them to do good to be good. A genuinely good person will do good regardless of the state of law enforcements or fear of punishments – earthly and mythological. The golden rule – ‘Do to others what you’d expect them to do to you.’ – is the best starting point for properly explaining any moral instruction.

See, when you punish your child, they might not be clever enough to grasp the fact, that you have to do it out of genuine concern. Remember, you’re the adult in this interaction. It is best to keep your personal idiosyncrasies out of it. A child who grows up learning to avoid punishment will not be as inhibited from trying to subvert the law in adulthood – the portion of their life, when they cowered at the thought of being physically hurt, is gone. Never punish a child for doing something that you’ve never explicitly instructed them to avoid, i.e. don’t yell at them for breaking a piece of glassware if you’ve never told them not to do it.

If your child asks you a question about something you’ve never explained, you should be proud for they’re developing the skill to not take things for granted; the next time you visit a wash, give your privates a high five. See, a person should be encouraged to ask questions. The more they do, the more they remain insatiate and, thus, aim higher. The world needs thinkers; thinkers aren’t born, they’re made.

The one thing I’d recommend you never do, is instill a fear of an all-knowing higher power. It’s just a waste of time for most of humanity and, in some unfortunate regions, a waste of perfectly good single piece human beings. You’re basically granting them a parent figure, whom they’d be afraid of, for the rest of their lives. Plus, since they’ll never meet this fictional character, their idea of this god will be vulnerable to manipulations. You know what happens when a person believes they have god on their side? They’re unfazed by reality. They have the potential of turning into a sociopath. Those are the people that end up as terrorists or worse, politicians.

I guess what I’m saying, is be a skeptic. Be skeptic of even your most trusted, and teach your pupils to be skeptic of you.

So, yeah! That’s all I have to say on this matter for now. I think a session of ‘Why or why not?’ is due…