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« Brian Cashman, Taoist Sage, Again... | Main | Scooter »

August 14, 2007


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I think you misunderstand why most people push their children. It isn't to help them become wealthy (i.e. "to consume at a high level"), but rather because of fear. Most people in our society are not driven to be wealthy, per ce, but rather because they are profoundly insecure and the only hedge that our society has against insecurity is to be a "winner" in the rat race. Greed is really quite rare in our society, but insecurity is rampant.

I agree with your take on the situation, but I think Tu Weiming offers an interesting potential to wiggle out of this state into something that is a good deal more enjoyable:

"Nevertheless, the self is not reducible to its social roles. The dramatic image of the modern person who assumes a variety of social roles is definitely un-Confucian. The idea of my assuming the role of son in reference to my father and simultaneously assuming the distinct and separate role of father in reference to my son is unnatural, if not distasteful. From my own experience, as far as I can remember, I have always been learning to be a son. Since my own son's birth, I have also been learning to be a father, and my learning to be a son has taken on new significance as a result of becoming a father myself. Furthermore, my being a son and a father is also informed and enriched by being a student, a teacher, a husband, a colleague, a friend, and an acquaintance. These are ways for me to learn to be human."
Tu Wei-ming, “A Confucian Perspective on Learning to be Human”
from Confucian Thought: Selfhood as Creative Transformation (Albany: 1985), 51-66

If we accept that there is this separate world of the child, I do not see why we can't continue to "learn to be a child" throughout our entire life and allow that to enrich and enhance our "learning to be an adult" and vice-versa.

This is a subject that's been strongly on my mind as the twins start to be more apparently sharing my clothes with me :)

There are things I know beyond doubt: No shuttling from "play date" to "playmate networking" (No joke, I actually heard that term used recently - it scares the excrement out of me and sounds like something women who pose naked do.) to soccer, to this, to that.

I went outside and played when I was a kid. I rode bikes, played in the snow, made forts, climbed an occasional tree...and what I mostly recall is being a happy kid. I never had a junior stress reaction because my soccer conflicted with my play date. I got dirty, I explored, I skinned my knees about 8 million times.

I know which seems like the sane and healthy choice, skinned knees and all. They still sell Bactine, after all.

Thanks for the great comments.
You make a good point about insecurity, Owl. And, Guy, the dynamic process you point to is helpful. We do learn from our children; we learn much about ourselves from them. But, I think that is still something different from the Taoist notion of becoming the child, which makes sense only in a limited manner to a Confucian (i.e. become the child in order to better perform the moral duties of adulthood; not to let go of those duties...). And Metta, have you seen my ealier post on "Taoist parenting"? While it may seem a non sequitir, I am thinking more about this idea these days...

Link me? I can't find a search box to hunt it up my lazy self. :)

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