The child is father to the man

The child is father to the man… how far can we take this idea?

A child from the moment he gives a name to item, human or otherwise, gives it an identity, is bringing in associations, emotional and physical, which determine how he will view that item for the rest of his life.  Whatever happens in all the years that follow the associations from childhood will be the deepest-rooted and hardest to break.

So far, nothing new.  We know how critical the early years are. And yet, in our own adult lives, we pay little attention to how are our views and opinions were formed. They help us identify ourselves, with a point of view, or family, or a wider group, be it a gang or a political party. Once that identification is established we don’t challenge it. We’re a Daily Telegraph or we’re a Guardian reader. We accept their prejudices as our own, even subtly (or not so subtly) adjust ours as they adjust theirs. What’s more, we associate opinion with attitude and emotion. We’re a naturally angry (not suffering fools) person, or we’re naturally proud (pompous) or assertive (aggressive). 

Phone-ins and live audiences, and shock-jock programmes, feed on this behaviour. It makes for good radio, or good TV. At the same time it demonstrates how little we have by way of self-awareness. How sure we are, how sure the other person is, how much we love or we hate, we follow or we oppose.  We’re in a world of opposites, and we’re not comfortable without them.

An awareness of who we really are, and how we came to be the people we think we are, or with the views we hold, is almost impossible in this world of ours. There’s much talk of mindfulness these days but we’re talking here of mindfulness not just of now but of how we came to be where we are now.

We don’t necessarily have to change the views we hold. But we do need to know where they’ve come from before we put them out into the world, and seek to lay them down for others.

Of course you may enjoy all the adrenalin, the confrontation and the anger, and even the hatred. In which case, stay as you are, ill-informed and angry to the last. For you, a path that makes you more humble, less assertive, less emotional, more compassionate and just a wee bit happier won’t be the right one.

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