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Civilization hangs suspended from generation to generation, by the gossamer strand of memory. If only one cohort of mothers and fathers fails to convey to its children what it has learned from its parents, then the great chain of learning and wisdom snaps. If the guardians of human knowledge stumble only one time, in their fall collapses the whole edifice of knowledge and understanding. —Jacob Neusner
Many of us lament where we are socially, culturally, politically, and religiously in this country. Unfortunately, there are few things we can point to with great love and pride, without having others dispute our findings and attack our stands. For those who feel the losses of our present moment, we want to know why we have reached this place in time. How did we fail so terribly? How did we fall so low? And more urgently, what are we to do about it?
Since most institutions that suffer have been taken over by those who would desecrate or even destroy them, it will be difficult to begin with those organizations themselves. But what we can do is to look where the seeds of society are sown, how they are nurtured or neglected. In many cases, we have to start with the family.
In parents’ efforts to raise perfect children, many of them have given them everything they could possibly need. Some of those indulgences involve too much permissiveness and no boundary setting; some of them involve giving them material things that are supposed to make their children happy. And some of those efforts are ways they try to ignore a past, which connects their children not only to positive stories but for a balanced view, the sad, even tragic stories.
But for children to learn how to embrace a full, productive, and ethical life, they must be exposed to all of it: risk-taking along with boundary-setting; material gifts and the joy of earning for one’s self; the humility of leading a life within a religious framework and the joy of breaking down barriers; and finally, learning both the beauty and ugliness of life.
When we exclude these diverse, colorful, and rich ways in which life unfolds, with its opportunities and limitations, we create a distorted and unrealistic future for our children. We have created a false reality and haven’t given them the tools, education, and wisdom for them to find their own paths. We have cheated them of understanding the importance of their role in the stream of humanity and left them adrift.
And, so, we have given them a world of desolation and emptiness.
The great chain of wisdom and learning is about to snap.Published in