Friday, May 1, 1998

Carlisle Comments

Stilling the Water

by Tracy Duncan

The Chinese sage, Lao-tse says, "Muddy water, let stand, become clear."

It is so difficult in our society to "let stand." Ours is the way of action. If something isn't right, fix it. If it's in your way, move it. Work it out. Go for it. Get with the program. Several of us were talking at coffee hour about the Mosquito article [March 20th issue] which featured folks who'd grown up here, comparing their lives with that of their children. Sadness and concern for today's kids were expressed. Over booking is now the expected norm. How will children learn to make their own decisions if they are constantly supervised? Where is the time for imagination? For just being? We wondered. How can we learn the value of "let stand" if we are constantly on the move?

El Niño has brought early blossoms to Boston. Last Saturday, cherry trees and star magnolias bloomed in the now-cold wind, forced to light early by that spate of summertime weather. Usually I rejoice at blossom time, but this season, amidst the joy, I worry. It's still early enough for a hard frost, which would kill the flowers. We all sighed in luxurious contentment during the warmth, and now marvel at the early wonders it wrought, but all could be destroyed overnight because it's too early, really, for them to be here. Often I think that we treat our children like


flowers. We give them artificially beneficial conditions under which to blossom early, and we ooh and ahh over their beauty when they do. But . . . I know a 12-year-old boy who needs surgery due to a hockey injury; he was too young to take the battering. There's the 16-year-old ballerina on her third knee surgery—she pushed her body too far when she was little in order to "make it." And the 15-year-old girl my daughter knows who swallowed a bottle of pills because she just couldn't take "it all" anymore. All these beautiful blossoms hurt for life because they were encouraged to flower too early.

Let stand. Time is of the essence, but not in the way we normally think. Natural processes take time to unfold properly. Lao-tse understood. When things get crazy or unclear, they will settle if we let them be. We learn this only if we have time to stand and watch—to be, simply be. Please, nurture the courage that will allow you to trust the children in your life to the natural way of things, which is sometimes harsh, and often slow. They will survive and be much hardier than any early-forced hothouse flowers, doomed to die when exposed to the real world, no matter how beautiful they may be under glass.

[Ed. note: Tracy Duncan is the Director of Religious Education for the First Religious Society. This article first appeared in the FRS newsletter, April 20, 1998.]