Friday, November 7, 2014

Untying the Knots - Golden Days

Those were the GOLDEN DAYS my friends …of our yester-years

by the High Priest of Prickly Bog

So ends a chain e-mail I recently received, which praises the past for having created a generation of risk takers and problem solvers, and criticizes the modern "namby pamby" practice of allowing all children into the school team — which it claims creates people who "cannot deal with disappointment."
The article is based in (and about those born in) India… but I have heard the same thoughts expressed many times in America and in Europe. (Original article published below this one.)
In many ways I agree with large parts of this article. I do feel that our new generation has gone a little too far into the "safety" zone, and life is becoming less interesting and less challenging. Children are almost completely undisciplined nowadays, to the point of rudeness, often. And I feel sure that many of them will have trouble dealing with the harshness of life as they grow older. Yes, we have become too conscious of every little germ that could give us a sniffle, and we won't take a risk even if the potential reward is meaningful. It sometimes seems that creativity has dried up altogether.

But the author of this article refers to the past of "lead paint, no medical benefits, neglectful or violent parents, and heavily sugared drinks" as "the Golden Days."Well, I'm not so sure that the supposed "Golden Days" were quite as golden as the mythology he or she clings to.

In innumerable ways, we didn't all turn out fine as a result of our parents unconscious and uncaring behaviour. Many of us suffered multiple health and mental problems, and underwent years of therapy as a result. Many of my friends developed awful ailments in their later years as a result of the neglect and bad nutrition of their earlier ones.
40 years ago, I began to change my diet, and my lifestyle and entered psychotherapy as a result of the dissatisfaction I felt in my life. I needed to analyze why I was unhappy with my lot, and what exactly it was that had brought me to this place where I found myself.

 Many of my friends and family members criticized my choices at the time, and expressed thoughts not dissimilar to this article. "We're not crazy," they would say, "we don't need a psychologist. There's nothing wrong that a little drink can't cure… or a quart of ice cream." They believed that eating only natural foods, and lowering the amount of heavy animal fats I consumed was "going a little overboard." They told me I should "just enjoy life." They said I was becoming a "health freak." They'd insist that health food "doesn't taste of anything… you've got to have a little fun in life." And when I tried to discuss family problems in a more neutral and rational way, they thought that I was just trying to stir up things that nobody wanted to talk about. Although, they didn't seem to mind discussing those things (quite loudly) once a big family fight had broken out.

Perhaps what they couldn't understand was that I was actually starting to enjoy my life way more than I had ever done before. By becoming more conscious of the food that I ate, I was learning to eat higher quality foods, which tasted a lot better than the commercialized junk food they were willing to dump into their systems. By learning to discuss my problems, and feel my feelings I was slowly freeing myself of the deeply held traumatic baggage of the past, which had controlled my behaviour subconsciously for so long.

Nowadays when "health consciousness" is a much more mainstream idea, many of them  (at least those who are still with us) might concede that perhaps all those years of artificial sweeteners, and colorings, and heavy deep fried foods, and preservatives, and monosodium glutamate, and BHT and BHA, and sulfites  and nitrates, and aluminum, and Carnuba wax (you read that correctly)… were not actually all that tasty… and certainly not worth the health problems they are facing now."

Many of the physical problems of old age are not to do with age but self abuse.

And perhaps some (of our more honest friends) might admit that we didn't always treat each other with fairness or compassion in the past. And, had we given more of ourselves and taken less, had we valued each other's deeper feelings above our own temporary and minor discomforts… then we would feel greater love flowing back towards us as we approach that final farewell.

Many of the mental problems of old age are caused by our own denial of the truth.

How many of us feel that our relationships with our wives, and husbands, and lovers, and children, and other family members have progressed in the way we would have wanted? Yes, there are some who have maintained their relationships for many years, but most people I know have had countless unrelenting internal family disputes to which there seems no solution. One wonders if those solutions may have been more available had we been taught how to have greater respect for one another,  to compromise more often, to consider the feelings of those around us. Perhaps we would have a better understanding of the concept of empathy had we been nurtured in a more loving way, and made to feel secure, and less like we had to fight for every last scrap of dignity or respect. Surely, these are not things we should have to compete for.

It was not easy for me to overcome the negative lessons of my childhood, and perhaps I never will completely. I have lost two sisters along the way, and seen other family members lives needlessly ripped apart because of addictions and selfishness and denial. And I cannot help but imagine that these event will undoubtedly affect future generations in one way or another. So it is hard for me to think of those old unconscious times — or these ones — as golden days. Don't get me wrong, I'm not making any excuses or blaming the past. Ultimately we are all responsible for our own fate, but I flatter myself that by trying hard to be a really conscious parent, and breaking the chain, somewhat, of our damaging family legacy, I have made success in life and love (at least a little) easier for my own son.

We don't do ourselves or our children any favors by saying, "My parents treated me like shit, but look at me I grew up alright." Because we didn't grow up alright, and we are often living in denial of our own problems, our needs, our inner pain.

I do agree that nowadays things have gone too far to the other side, and I see parents making such stupid mistakes that are exactly and diametrically opposite to the mistakes their parents made. But we need to realize that it is exactly because their parents made those mistakes that these new parents are over reacting in the opposite direction. So instead of feeling smug and self satisfied about how much better everything used to be before… the past needs to take responsibility for what it has created in the present.

To create a false dichotomy between the past and the present is always a trite and stereotyped misunderstanding of the cause and effect of the mechanics of life, humanity, and relationships. More detailed and thoughtful analysis is often required. Simpler times were not necessarily better times.  We need to let go of our emotional ties to what we once believed was the "right" way or the "wrong" way, and start trying to discover new and more functional ways of behaving. Parents do need to be more thoughtful, and create security, and boundaries for their children which do not conflict with each other. "Because I said so!" is no longer a satisfactory answer to your children.  You need to be clear about what messages you are giving, and you need to be clear with yourself as to why you're giving them. It's okay to not know the answer if you can make your children secure in the knowledge that you will work together with them to seek out the solutions they need.

In this way our Golden Days may yet lie ahead.

original article:

This is a must Read if you grew up in Calcutta
or anywhere in India

This is about a generation of kids who eventually grew up tough and learned to make it on their own with no government
subsidies, no unemployment benefits, no medical plans, no job openings to apply for, even if you had an education,
no savings and for the most part, no inheritance from our parents. Most families lived from day to day and had no savings.


How true and so well articulated! To the wonderful kids who were
born in Calcutta and survived the 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's..........

First, we survived being born to mothers, some whose husbands smoked
and/or drank while they carried us. They took aspirin, ate whatever
food was put on the table, and didn't get tested for diabetes or any
other disease! They were mothers who did not check their blood
pressure every few minutes.

Then after that trauma, our baby cribs and bassinets were covered
with bright colored lead-based paints. We were put in prams and sent out
with 'Ayahs' to meet other children with their ayahs whilst our parents were busy.

We had no child proof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets, and
when we rode our bikes we had no helmets, not to mention the risks we
took hitchhiking or going out on our own.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or airbags. We
sat on each others laps for God's sake. Riding in the back of a
Station Wagon on a warm day was always a special treat.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died
from this! We would share a bhuta or dosa; dip a chapatti into someone else's plate of curry
without batting an eyelid.

We ate jam sandwiches or pickle on bread and butter, raw mangoes with salt and
chillies that set our teeth on edge, and drank orange squash with sugar and water in it.

We ate at roadside stalls, drank water from tender coconuts, ate everything that was bad for us
from putchkas to bhel puri (fried bread with chick peas) to bhajias (battered and fried
vegetables) and samosas but we weren't overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day during the holidays,
we were never ever bored, and we were allowed freedom all  day as long as we were back
when the streetlights came on, or when our  parents told us to do so.
No one was able to reach us all day by mobile phone or phone...... BUT we were OKAY!

We would spend hours making paper kites, building things out of scraps with old pram
wheels or cycle rims, inventing our own games, having pound parties, playing
traditional games called hide and seek, kick the can, 'guli danda', 'seven tiles' and rounders, ride
old cycles and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes.
After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

Our parents earned less, never travelled abroad, except, on their vacations back home to Digha,
Gopalpur, Puri, Bandel. Religion was never an issue, everyone trusted and loved each other, and came to
each others aid when needed.

We never heard of or claimed our inheritance, whilst our parents were alive.
We did not look for inheritance after they died too. They made sure we  were alright.  
Never heard of pocket money!

We swam with an inflated tube which we got from somebody who was replacing their car
tyres. We ran barefoot without thinking about it, if we got cut we used Iodine on it which made us jump.

Our parents ran after us, to give us castor oil, once a month!!

We did not wash our hands ten times a day. And we were OK. We did not have Play stations,
Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies,
no surround sound, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no I-Pods, no Internet or
Internet chat rooms, no TV,.... full stop! Listening to music was a gather around!

We did not have parents who said things like 'what would you like for breakfast, lunch or dinner'.
We ate what was put in front of us and best of all, there was never any leftovers. We polished the lot!!!

WE HAD FRIENDS, great friends, whose parents we called Uncle and Aunty, and we went outside
and found them! They too took care of us,  when our parents were away, and without any charge!

We fell out of trees numerous times,  got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no compensation
claims from these accidents. We never visited the Dentist! We ate fruit lying on the ground that we shook
down from the tree above. And we never washed the fruit.

We had a bath using a bucket and mug and used Lifebuoy soap. We did not know what Shampoos &
Conditioners meant.

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls.   We rode cycles everywhere and someone
sat on the carrier or across the bar to school or the pictures, not cinema, or you walked to a friend's
house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them, and their parents,
never let us go without a meal or something....

Not everyone made it into the teams we wanted to...........Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment.
Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of.......
They actually sided with the law! This generation of ours has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and
inventors ever!......

The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!

Please pass this on to others who have had the luck and good fortune
to grow up as kids in Calcutta, before the lawyers and the government
regulated our lives, ostensibly for our own good, that changed what
was good into bad and what was bad into worse.......
Those were the GOLDEN DAYS my friends of our yester years. !!........