How fragile we are.

Dr. Dean Edell, in his quest to provide medical perspective with “Eat Drink and be Merry,” says something very similar to this entry.  That we shouldn’t worry excessively about every new finding in a medical journal (some are premature or erroneous), and that we shouldn’t obsess about how much we diverge from our physical ideal (the human body is magnificently engineered and tolerates variation nicely).  We shouldn’t needlessly sacrifice the quality of our lives in a misguided effort to perfect them.

A couple of days ago, I got an email from a friend that read, “I feel behind.”  And it linked to a site where another parent reports how her two-year-old likes to glue clothes onto construction paper dolls.  (And she’s like to sell you her cutouts, so you can do it too.)  My friend felt behind because her 19 month daughter does not do what the 30 month daughter does.  Puleeze.

That got me to thinking about a few things.

  1. Selling construction paper cutouts on the web?!  Why didn’t I think of that?  I’ve got scissors.  I’ve got paper.  I’ve got a PayPal account.
  2. We really do ourselves a disservice by browsing the web until we find someone who’s got it better than us, and then obsessing about it.  That’s not just a waste of time, it’s destructive.

And three, that we humans in some sense, are not as fragile as we’re led to believe.  I love Sting’s song Fragile as much as anybody else. and it’s very poignant.  But as fragile we are, we can be (and often tend to be) even more resilient.  It’s important to keep that in mind to maintain proper perspective.

In America, the essence of a capitalist society, we’re told by every huckster that they’ve got something that will better our lives.  The correlation is that our lives are not what they should be.  Parents are particularly vulnerable, because we want the best for our children.  And when somebody else’s kid pastes shorts over the doll’s waist when our kid tries to eat them, we always wonder, “could I be doing something better?”

I’ve come to the enlightened conclusion, “Yes, I could be doing something better.”  I’m making plenty of mistakes, and don’t have the resources to do some of the things I’d love to do for my child.  But, I don’t know anybody who didn’t fall on their heads from the kitchen counter, or who didn’t get a door slammed on their fingers, or who didn’t go to public school, or whose parents didn’t lace their gasoline with MTBE.  And most of these friends seem OK.  Not that there aren’t cautionary tales.  There are.  I also don’t know anybody who doesn’t know someone in jail, or addicted to drugs, or who died due to human error/action.  But, of all the “success stories,” none of them are of people who’ve had perfect lives.  Everyone’s emerged from multiple failings.  And we have every reason to hope and expect that our children will overcome what we inflict on them.