Kids – Please Question Me

This is dedicated to my two darling children, and if you get something useful out of it then I have done something right.

Your mother and I tell you kids to do a lot of things: Clean your rooms, do your homework, don’t pick at whatever it is that you are picking at, blah, blah, blah.

Sometimes we yell these things at you because you did not hear us say it nicely three times in a row, and sometimes we just say these things because we are on auto-pilot trying to get through the day and whatever you are doing is causing delays. Sometimes we do not actually know why we told you to do something, but just do it, okay? And sometimes we are just plain wrong in telling you to do something, but most of the time we are actually helping you with the little things in life.

This imperfect system is called parenting. It is a significant part of a much larger and even more imperfect system called living. At the scale of “living” we, your imperfect parents, are told to do things by other people who are also imperfect. Governments, employers, consultants, friends, colleagues, peers, associates, and in general everyone else telling everyone else what to do.

A lot of what you are told to do is helpful. For example:

  • “Get an education.” As long as this is not code for “Buy yourself a degree in a major that you hate, because it will get you a job that pays well.” being told to get an education is a good thing. You will benefit from a good education in many ways. You can also derive great joy from obtaining your education if it aligns with your passions.
  • “Listen to the authorities.” This one is a double-edged sword. If a police officer tells you to turn around and take another route because the bridge ahead is washed out listen to that police officer. That is a good thing. If a police officer tells you to turn around and leave just because he or she has a badge and does not want you to witness them doing something wrong, well that is bullshit but you better still go and turnaround because the system is imperfect and assholes are occasionally given badges (and usually a gun and restraints to match). Authorities doing a good job, or at least acting reasonably, should be listened to. Authorities acting like tyrants are to be removed from authority (that part is your job believe it or not, so vote). Develop the wisdom to learn the difference (this ties in with that “get an education” thing).
  • “The most important thing in your life is love.” Once you get past the super sickeningly sweet sentiment that often accompanies this advice it is actually a really good and practical process for guiding your actions with. Recognize what you love in this world and then make your decisions with that love in mind. I quit smoking when I saw one of you as a toddler mimicking me smoking using a chewed up lollipop stick. I chose to quit smoking once and for all then and there, because of my love for you. Thank you for that, because I feel much better now. Now will one of you please imitate me overeating fatty foods as I want to lose some weight?

So a lot of what we say is good stuff. You will benefit from listening to us and following our advice most of the time.

Emphasis on “most of the time”.

The problem is that you have to remember that we are also really stupid at times. Not just your mother and I, but everybody in the world. There is an entire industry devoted to just how stupid we can collectively be – the insurance industry. If people were smart all of the time we would rarely hit each other’s cars, get sick from unhealthy choices, or start fires.

Seriously, we start fires due to our own stupidity. We as a species actually have a tendency to make decisions that result in us setting ourselves and others on fire so often that we need fire and health insurance for when it happens. That is how stupid we can be.

Don’t believe me? Four words: Fourth of July barbeque. Enough said.

It is because of this collective stupidity that is part of humanity that I ask you, beg of you, to remember that being told to do something is no excuse for not thinking things through.

Think through what kind of education will make you a better and happier person before you sign of on some outrageous student loan agreement. There are plenty of Harvard graduates that nobody cares about but their bill collectors. There are high school drop outs who are self-taught masters of their trades that everyone knows by name. I would rather that you became the latter.

Listen to what the authorities are saying, but think about what complying with them will do before you take action. This nation was founded by an act of rebellion, and a lot of civil rights were obtained by brave citizens telling the authorities that they were wrong despite being “in charge”. The authorities are still wrong on many things, and we still need to let them know who is in charge. The reverse is also true, because the authorities have had to tell people at times to stop acting like idiots towards each other. Why? Because the authorities are actually still just people like the rest of us. This cycle will never end, so be ready to do your part to make things better and not worse.

Let love guide you throughout your life, but do not let it take the wheel. Like I said before, love is like a compass and it will help you determine what direction you should be going in. But following just a compass alone can lead you straight to a cliff’s edge. Develop your intellect to a level where it can be a good map that works in conjunction with that compass. This not only helps you to enjoy your love to the fullest, but may also prevent you from getting tattoos that you will later regret.

What I am trying to say here is that I want you to hear what I and your mother are saying, but to then filter it through your own understanding of the world. I want you to take that same approach with anyone else who gives you advice or a command. We humans are actually pretty good at this whole survival thing, but I am not worried about you surviving. I worry about you not developing to your full potential. Very few of us do, and a lot of us stopped trying to because we just sat back and listened to what we were told to do.

At times your teachers will be wrong, your bosses will be wrong, your parents will be wrong, and you will be wrong as well. That is okay. That is life.

But it is better to be wrong through attempting to discover truth. It is better to make mistakes by thinking and feeling things through then it is to be safe by listening to everyone else and then repeating that same crap to your kids. A failure in the pursuit of success is a learning experience. A failure through maintaining conformity to what you have been told is a wasted life.

That is all I have to say to you in this article. If you end up questioning it I will be proud of you.

Now go clean your room.