Why are your kids so fucked up?

I had a dream last night. It was of a random summer weekend at my folks’ cabin in rural Morris, IL. The middle of nowhere surrounded by 23 acres of woods, hills and lake. It’s not often that I actually have a dream and remember it (especially in full-motion video), but I vividly remember myself and a couple Boston friends leaping off the end of a hill at an unreasonable height and into the water below. We swam for miles, down the entire fingery length of Deer Lake, with no destination defined, just enjoying the relaxation and natural beauty of it all.

I should probably just stop writing now while the image is still warm, because whenever I write about a dream it always ends the same way: me waking up, groaning at what graces our public airwaves, and killing my alarmclock for another 23 hours 59 minutes and 30-something seconds. This time I looked up and before I knew it, that warm happy image was overwritten by something contrasting; the view of fences after fences outside my bedroom window. I started to wonder if the increasing rallying cries of “kids these days are out of control” and our alacrity for fence-building, in both the literal and figurative senses, are not entirely unrelated.

I look at this row of fenced grass pens and wonder if generations to come will have any concept of such experiences. Bring home slimy and scaly and furry things, leaving a green bug-eyed blur destined to startle the next person who walks too close to the kitchen sink, or lie down next to a milkweed plant and catch an emerging butterfly at the moment of realizing what it has become. Or to climb, hand over hand, to the top of the tallest tree of the tallest ridge and look out aboriginally for miles through the branches at what lies below, knowing, just by knowing, that you are the first. Sure, many people have run up many hills and climbed many trees, but nobody, since the dawn of time itself, has stood where you are standing right now, nor seen exactly what you are seeing. This is yours and yours alone.

Sometimes I forget how rare it is for someone to actually have a place like this, to run wild and explore and lose themselves in for hours and days and years at a time. I think that deep down, there is something in all of us that needs this.

Occasionally at family gatherings, my older relatives, especially dad and uncles, would get to talking about their youths and the things they got up to. Of hours spent playing in “the crick” or in untamed fields, or a nearby forest, or pretty much any other place they could get to. But with each passing year there is less to explore as Progress marches across the landscape, converting even these last refuges to Starbucks and strip malls. How does a child satisfy this natural, unquenchable though the educational system will do its best desire in a locked-down urban jungle without generating howling from the owners of that jungle? Meanwhile, we’ve spread and sprawled, running asymptotically toward the point where there exists no splotch of land that isn’t owned by someone who will/can have you arrested for standing on it, paved the way for steel monuments to nature in privatized public space, then set aside tree museums and designated play areas in orange and green day-glo structure. What bothers me most is wondering, not if, or even when, but how that little piece of our species will die–whether it will go quietly, iteratively bred out amidst the prepackaged sensory nirvana of Barbie and drugs and television, or catastrophically, like the goldfish drying to a crisp in your shag carpeting, unable to spend another day in the known of its tiny bowl.

Maybe it is going too far to point at a No Trespassing sign and lay the blame for the downfall of humanity at the base of its weathered post. But maybe I just might be onto something, too.

Ronald McNutless

QOTD: “Yeah, I’m taking her someplace nice tonight… right to the stove, to
cook me dinner.” – JP, on Valentine’s day with the missus.

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One Response to “Why are your kids so fucked up?”

  1. Rayoe says:

    was fun to read

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