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Moving Boxes

IMG_6520It’s like this. I just moved to a new house and my kids spend the night. And when you move, there’s boxes, right? Of course there are. Lots of boxes. Stacked up by the door. So when we go to leave in the morning I say “I gotta bunch of boxes to toss in the back,” and what do you think the kids do? They put on their shoes, hop in the car, and watch me make 5 trips to the car with boxes.

Let’s review. There’s a bunch of boxes. There’s me. And 2 kids. The kids, from the car, sitting, relaxing, limp, barely breathing, in an abandoned state of samadhi, perhaps drooling, WATCH me make FIVE trips back and forth to the car to get the boxes loaded. That’s what happened. This is an event that actually occurred. The world shone forth in the form of my kids watching me carry boxes.

It’s times like this where, if you’re not careful, one might find cause to turn on himself and critique his parenting skills because wouldn’t these kids perhaps GRAB A BOX if I had raised them up right? (Did you see what just happened? The perspective just moved from the second person to the third person to the first person, all in one question. Why is the author so flippantly toying with the grammar of point of view? Turn to a neighbor. Discuss.)

But no. I don’t really know where I stand in relation to how my kids should be in terms of selfishness and selflessness. On the surface, sure, I’d like to see them leap from the car and say “No no! Sit down, father. We are young and spry and the will of something Greater calls to us through the music of conscience to carry the boxes,” and, afterwards, I even said to them with the lightest heart and smile I could muster, “You know, if your mom ever has a bunch of things to carry in or out of the house, a really nice thing for you to do would be to help her out instead of just watching her.”

But what’s fair to expect? It seems to me that we’ve spent a lot of time propping the kids into being selves. Molding them. Shaping them. It wasn’t so long ago, you know, that they were nothing and when kids finally get to the world, they’re not much more than wishy-washy pieces of nothing with skin on it. So you have to teach them: Hey, you’re a little person. A separate and distinct self with a name and, look, you can move your arms and poop and walk around the yard as long as you stay out of the road. We enforce individuality on them so they don’t stay all stupid and formless in the void.

That’s not to say that they actually are selves. I mean, we’re all still voids, aren’t we? But, again, it’s our responsibility to teach them how to be people so they can line up at school, get bank accounts, and fill out profiles for ok cupid. What I’m driving at is that it’s hardly fair for us to work so hard to bolster our little bundles of nothing into people and then expect them to automatically forget themselves and start carrying boxes. The journey back to selflessness from enclosed selfhood is a long one indeed. In fact, I’d venture to say that most adults are still sitting in the car.

I mean, seriously, how do any of us ever make it out of the car to carry the boxes? So severely selfed, how do we get out? I like to imagine that, for myself, my self is just a tiny version of a bigger self, which is the world, and I either identify with myself, the little version, and stay locked in the car or I identify with the world, the bigger version, and I help carry boxes, ask how you’re doing, really listen, help, notice things, pick up trash, talk to animals, listen to trees, write poetry, and soar with birds.

Which is kinda pretty and mystical but how do you teach a kid, whose self you carved from the shadow of nothing, to now forget herself for the bounty of the world? I don’t know. This isn’t a problem/solution essay. But I have to believe it takes more than yelling at them to get out of the car and grab some damn boxes. You can’t really yell someone selfless. Just like you can never think your way out of yourself because thought thinks in. Maybe, in the end, this is a deal that can only be settled between the world and our children. We can rest assured, at least, in the fact that the world is a persistent visitor who constantly knocks while hoping that the kids will one day hear it and have the courage to fling the door open and step out to greet the great rushing in world.
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Read more from me at Black Hockey Jesus.

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