If you were ever a child, depending on how long ago it was (insert smile here) you might remember often asking, or at least wondering but being too afraid or too timid to ask, “why?” BUT – even if you chose not to verbalize it, at least you wondered, right?? Why do I have a “bedtime”? Why is the sky blue? Why can’t I breath under the water like a fish? Why are people different colors? Why do people have to die? Where is heaven? …And on and on and on….
Depending on what kind of home you grew up in, this innate inquisitive nature may have been rebuked, or nurtured. Your inner desire to make sense of the world around you may have been made to seem like genius at work, or like an annoying inconvenience. But whatever the case, it is undeniable that somewhere along the way, we trade in our burning desire to question everything, and for the world around us to make complete sense, and for every contradiction to be challenged, and for everything that doesn’t smell right, and feel right to be tested. Somewhere along the way, we trade in our willingness to courageously challenge our own inner thoughts – and why we believe what we believe – for something much more comfortable. Something that allows us to know less, and to grow less, allthewhile becoming more steadfast, confident, and immovable in our opinions about what we believe to be true.
I remember as a child wondering how many steps I could jump down until too high was just too high. I knew what I thought, but I just had to find out for myself. So I jumped – one step, then two steps, then three steps, then four…until I got so high, I banged my head on the top of the stairway entrance and landed on my back. How I didn’t break bones, I have no idea. But at least I then knew the answer to what I had wondered. I recall as a very young child wondering how far into the ocean I could walk before I could no longer stand up, even on my toes. In my youthful ignorance, I had not accounted for the tides and currents and the immense power and conviction of the ocean’s waves. The next thing I remember – vaguely – is flailing my arms, completely submerged in the ocean, desperately trying to keep saltwater out of my mouth – and being yanked straight up out of the water by my father.
“It” nearly cost me my life then, but I surmise that “it” is also the same reason I resist and question society’s determination to clutch onto anything ending with an -ISM or an -IST, without first taking a childlike journey into the why. Why does this -ISM exist? Where and by whom was it founded or started? What were their reasons and motivations for creating and spreading the -ISM? What does being an -IST say about me? What box(es) does it require me to be in? What is it about ME, and my life experiences that are attracting me to this -ISM? Is it possible that I am trying to compensate for something by enlisting in the army of (insert your – ISM of choice here)? Is my commitment and allegiance to my -ISM one that is consistent with my core beliefs (or at least what I claim to be my core beliefs)? All very difficult questions, but isn’t part of being an adult synonymous with having the courage to have these conversations with yourself, or someone else you respect and trust? If these aren’t conversations we can have with ourselves, in the privacy of our own heads, then, to crib from one of my favorite SNL skits, “what’s up with that!?”
My questions aren’t limited to the -ISMs and -ISTs of the world, but include all popular labels with which we adorn ourselves, grit our teeth for, argue and fight for, lose friends for, get arrested for, kill for, denounce family for, and indoctrinate our children for. I ask you to join me in 2017 in the challenge of having more conversations, reading more books, watching a wider variety of news sources, talking to people that aren’t clones of ourselves, and determining, after asking the tough questions, what’s most important in life. Maybe, ironically, stop acting like an adult and be a child for once.
-Mervin A. Bourne, Jr., Author of “A Single Mother’s Guide to Raising a Son“