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Anything Goes

August 23, 2009

Eileen

Eileen

“My comment is unpolitical, David, but so far, I am fortunate to have decent dialect with my son about what he is going through at 13. Also, we pray from our souls every night and count our blessings so I hope and think he is getting spiritual grounding. I am too tired at night to intellectualize with him. When he attends college and wants an intellectual dialogue, I will participate.”

Eileen, the conversation with your son about “what he is going through” you describe sounds both honest and profound. The fact that you engage him like this and that you can talk about your spiritual approach to him and to life with me so candidly exemplifies the kind of forthright and substantive dialogue so many people avoid.

As far as my “suggested” topics are concerned (sex, politics, religion) I only mentioned them as examples because they represent the stereotypical taboos. There is nothing wrong with talking about different subjects, which might be more relevant and meaningful to what is happening in a person’s life. Moreover, we all resort to chatting about safe topics in order escape possible confrontation and personal vulnerability. Riding in a cab, saying hello on the phone to a second cousin—maybe a “deep” comment about God or what to do in Afghanistan is neither tactful nor convenient. It’s more a matter of degree: I think as a society we pick the safe over the serious more than we should and it’s hurting our ability as a nation to take care of real problems. Our politicians, right and left, used to have more in depth dialogue about the issues, and their fully expressed positions on these issues used to be an integral part of their campaigns. They’ve gotten away from that in exchange for slick ads and adroit one-liners and we’ve let them.

Every thought one articulates  doesn’t have to sag from its “heaviness,” but when people have things on their mind, they should be able to say them without feeling foolish or fearful. As I’m sure you’re aware, this is desperately true for children. I don’t think kids expect their parents to always concur with them. In fact, now that I look back on it, I was secretly reassured when my parents argued with me about some of the kooky schemes and dreams I foisted upon them in my teens. I had doubts myself and would have been shocked and scared if they’d just said yes, or let me win. So agreement is definitely not necessary, just human connection.

Nor is intellect a required ingredient. In fact, some people hide behind their intellect. They drain the personal out of what they have to say in order to “be objective” when in fact their feelings are the very emotional facts which might betray their souls. Or worse, they rationalize away these feelings in conversations with themselves. Or maybe worst of all they blarney their audience with felicitous phrases that disguise self-serving deceptions. They can get away this because they are nimble with words and ideas, but are in truth as spiritually empty as what they have to say. Clever and honest are not synonyms. All too often they are opposites.

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