Good Girls & Boys

<June 2008>

I’m in my mid-50's now. I guess somehow, when I wasn't looking, I became an “elder.” We begin to see things a little differently at my age – once all the career fol-de-rol & the parenthood fol-de-rol & the great, wondrous roller coaster of life have slowed down a wee bit & given us time to think, reflect & …. be. (Menopause may also be a factor.)

Something that has struck me recently is the notion that we are all (well, most of us, I think) trying very, very hard – & have been trying very hard all our lives – to be such good boys & girls.(1)  We’ve tried so hard to please our parents (many of whom were, truthfully, rather nasty people & outrageously bad role models, not to mention utterly impossible to please!); we’ve tried so hard to fit in, in this culture that places such conflicting & impossible demands on us (be yourself, but make sure you “keep up with the Joneses”), that we have done a real number on ourselves.

I think the vast majority of us are trying so hard to be good girls & boys – with our careers & our families & our 100% buy-in to a (mostly dysfunctional) culture in which “looking good” is the be-all & end-all, that we seldom stop to think about whether the life we’re leading is really making sense – or satisfying us very much at all.

Are we really doing – really living – the kinds of lives we really want to live?

Are the things we’re doing – the jobs we’re doing – the things we are endlessly buying – really bringing us joy – satisfaction – fulfillment?


Or are most of us on some kind of gigantic treadmill, running ‘round & ‘round in circles, just doing what the materialistic & superficial & voraciously consumptive culture we’re immersed in tells us we ought to be doing & finding our fulfillment in? In the way that fish very likely haven’t any concept of water, in which their whole lives are conducted, do most of us ever really think deeply about the culture we live in – & whether any of it really makes any sense – or are we so fully immersed in running in the prescribed circles that we haven’t noticed it is utterly destructive to people & the planet that is our only home?

Well, we’re odd critters, we human beings, no doubt about that.

Even so – & even though I suspect our culture/civilization (I use the term loosely!) is headed at a pretty fast clip for a very unforgiving brick wall – even so, even so, I find our sincere & often quite well-meaning (if misguided) efforts to be “good boys & girls” really rather touching – rather poignant.

Many of us have worked ourselves half to death – with workaholism & various & sundry other “isms” & addictions – in what I think are lifelong (but mostly unconscious) efforts to prove to those gods & goddesses, Mommy & Daddy  (who, as previously mentioned were often utterly hopeless role models, & besides which, many of whom are now actually quite dead!) that we are good girls & boys.

Perhaps it’s time for us to stand back – take a pause from the craziness that is life in the western world in 2008 – & ask ourselves, “Is this really what life is meant to be about?”

As a church signboard in my neighbourhood said so wisely one time recently, “Plan ahead! It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.”

We all know tough times are coming down the pipes at us, one way & another.

Let’s make sure we’re getting ourselves ready for them!


P.S. on October 6/09 – i.e., 6 months after posting this item:

I just spent a weekend learning about civil disobedience (loved it!). One of the presenters Greenpeace had invited is a lawyer – an awesome, feisty woman full of piss & vinegar (as they say) & in her presentation helped us see that it isn’t just our parents who try to keep us “in line” – the entire legal system (not to mention the whole society) is structured that way.

Think about it: we are socialized to not want to stand out, to be different. Our legal system (I never call it a “justice” system, because it has very, very little indeed to do with justice. Several years working as a federal parole officer provided me with some first-hand experience in that regard) – the courts & the police & the whole darn set-up is designed to intimidate – to keep us “in line.” Of course, we know there are “good” people working as judges & lawyers & cops – but that doesn’t change the fact that the system they work in is set up to maintain “order” at all costs.(I’ve written elsewhere that all our human-made systems are broken. Political – legal – religious – health – educational – industrial – economic; have I missed any?? I often recall that great quotation “There isn’t a problem with the system. The system is the problem.” Sadly & ironically, all these broken systems are being propped up by many, many “good” people. Is it not so? Give it some thought, hmm?)

It’s all a “pretty mess,” as they say, hmmm?

I think more of us need to start “colouring outside the lines;” maybe even taking part in acts of civil disobedience.

Why the heck not???

P.P.S. I've posted an item called ‘We are TOO (freakin’) polite’ that is somewhat relevant on this score.

(1) I think we do this because when we are “growing up,” our parents are our very god & goddess. We want so badly to please them, & do what they will reward us for. We are such simple creatures, at bottom, aren’t we??