Monday, September 06, 2010

Putting Sandbox Lessons in Place Creates Peace

By Judith England
Right now it’s pretty easy for me to be peaceful.  I’m surrounded by nature in all her late summer lushness. The only sound is a boat motor in the distance, and crickets talking to other crickets.  But mainly, there’s no one but the dog to talk to.  No back and forth, give and take, which is conversation at it’s best. But also no disagreement, no opposing point of view or difference of opinion, to wrangle through.
You might say I’m like a little kid all by myself in the sandbox.  I don’t have to share. I don’t have to get along. I can think to myself “Gee, what a nice peaceful person I am,” with all the toys around me.
Forest Gump may have said “Life is like a box of chocolates,” but I think that life, and the living of it in this complicated world, is more like a sandbox.
And the sandbox is getting smaller by the minute.
With communication at the click of a button we are free to say what’s on our mind via Facebook, Twitter or Skype. Instantaneously we have the opportunity to get up close with hundreds of people. Unless someone decides to “un-friend us,” external censorship is mostly absent, and internal controls seem less apt to kick in than with face-to-face encounters. Even old-school letter writing, which implies a captive audience, seems more restrained.
I wonder sometimes if a prompt should come up on the screen inquiring, “Do you really want to say that?”
Don’t misunderstand me here. I am squarely in the corner of individual freedom of expression.  I also think that networking cuts both ways:  broadening horizons and expanding tolerance of people different from ourselves as well  as serving as a stage for personal diatribes.
What’s been deeply disturbing to me lately is the growing lack of tolerance and concurrent rise in acrimony when two minds find themselves at opposite poles.
Peace in the sandbox is not an option. Without it, it’s really impossible to meet any other human need.  Why worry about having enough to eat, or getting an education or fulfilling work if bombs are exploding overhead, or we live in fear that they might.
Fear, that is what drives divisive attitudes and behavior.  Fear of differences, fear of losing your beliefs if you allow another theirs. A healthy caution of strangers we were taught as children magnified beyond reason in adulthood.
Prejudice = pre + judging = deciding before knowing.
One of the great blessings of growing up in New York City was the lesson I learned from childhood – different isn’t bad, it’s just different. In my neighborhood and in school, I was surrounded by an amazing patchwork quilt of ethnicity, religion, and cultures. In High School I had the gift of knowing that I was a minority in the student population. I began to internalize the hope espoused by Dr. Martin Luther King, that  “children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
My grandchildren go to daycare.  It’s a program with creativity and a large measure of love.  It’s a place where they too are surrounded with children who may look very different from them.  I watch the ease they have with those around them, not just with the idea of taking turns.  It doesn’t hurt either that their parents have always modeled what it means to “share the sandbox.”
I’m remembering the lyrics to a Rogers/Hammerstein tune from the musical, "South Pacific." Always current, always timely:
“You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”:
You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!
Perhaps we can work a little harder for a time when the words of this song no longer make sense, and we’re all more comfortable in the sandbox.
Judith England, a certified yoga instructor and a massage therapist, is a regular blogger for the Albany, New York Times Union. This piece appeared first in the Holistic Health blog. Bookmark that blog because it's full of great wisdom and advice on how to live a healthy and peaceful life!
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