Thought provoking exchanges on Taoism, Chinese Astrology, Mathematics, Education, GAIA -- our planet, and of course, Sillyness.

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Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Monday, February 05, 2007


London, Ontario, 1997.

D. and J., my friendly neighbours and I, live in adjacent townhouses down by the woods bordering the north branch of the Thames River. We're all three from small towns, so we love the natural setting in which we're privileged to live. We see more squirrels, geese and raccoons than we do people, and that makes us very happy.

Though D. and J. both love kids, they have none yet, but sometimes they're visited by their friends' children. In particular, they're visited by a four year old who has spent most of his short life lost in the electronic wonderland of TV and video games. This child has absolutely no inkling of how to relate to nature.

One evening in early fall, when this little lad was visiting, D. and I were outside with him and we were talking; both of us pleasantly aware of the song the insects and frogs in the woods and river were singing. Suddenly the kid went rigid. He asked "what's that?" "What's what?" D. questioned. "That noise" he said. "What's that noise?"

When we realized that he was referring to the sounds of nature we so enjoyed hearing, we explained that it was the sound of insects in the woods and frogs down by the river singing their sunset song. "They always sing at sundown," we said, and waited for his reaction.

"Well, turn it off " he commanded. "I don't want to hear it any more." As if we could pick up a joy stick or remote control, push a button to mute the sounds of nature.

I find this pretty damn scary! What message do you think dwells in the psyche of this four year old human being? Can you imagine that he has any respect for his home planet or do you think he believes himself to be "Master of the Universe" in control of it all? At his young age, he is convinced that some inane human activity such as flipping a switch, can effect change in the world to make it more to his liking. And can you imagine what his reaction will be when he grows up, fathers a sensitive, fussy child and no longer wants to hear his baby crying? What action might he take to rectify that situation?

Too many youngsters today experience the world in two dimensional cyberspace and have no concept of natural reality or how to live with it. They're like the first whites who came to North America. The Indians called them extraterrestrials because they seemed to have no inkling of how to relate to this planet. The natives concluded that they must have come from some other one somewhere, and in a way, they were right. The same is true of our kids and many adults today.
We spend so much of our working time manipulating data and artificial resources, that we can't help but create humongous superiority complexes. We convince ourselves that we are in total control of it all, then we run into an ice storm or tsunami and we're powerless. We condone actions such as pumping poison into Mother Earth in order to rid ourselves of those pesky dandelions that grow on our perfectly green lawns, without thinking about the dire consequences of such actions.

At one time, we'd keep a family pet to teach our kids responsibility towards other living beings, however today we give our children "virtual" pets -- manufactured in Japan out of plastic and metal, with little buttons that must be pushed in order to feed and comfort them. And when they "die", we create virtual pet mortuaries and cemeteries -- I kid you not -- in order to give them proper burials.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't introduce our kids to modern technology, but we've got to strike a balance between the natural and man-made world if we hope to survive. Our kids have got to experience first hand the wonders of nature. They can't know it solely through the Discovery Channel. It's amazing! We human beings are the only species on this planet that understands that it is the only planet upon which we can survive, yet we're also the only species on this planet out to destroy it.

Sure it's easier to relate to and control the man-made universe but we must teach ourselves and our kids to love and respect nature or this planet will become uninhabitable in the near future.

It's almost spring. Take your kids on a nature walk this weekend and teach them to love their home planet. You'll be doing them, yourself and the world they hope to inhabit, a favour.

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