Society & Culture


(Re-posted with permission from

When I was a teenager, I knew that I had to leave home, find my way in the world, and become more independent. Since then I have come to understand that my feeling of uncertainty and not knowing what to do is fairly common. Though uncertain what to do, I was certain that I had to be independent and rely on my own abilities to create a living for myself.

Now I know that I was given that somewhat rare gift of a happy childhood. I remember when I was sixteen or seventeen, at a day’s end to a summer job, queuing at a bus-stop waiting to catch the next bus home. It was late afternoon when the sun was moving toward the horizon behind some tall plain trees that cast shadow over where I stood on that warm afternoon. I looked up and saw the light dappled by the leaves of the tree. In my mind I was thinking about having a cup of tea when I arrived home. I felt a surge of peace and tranquility and the thought formed that if the world should suddenly end in the next instant then I could go with no regret. That wasn’t the first time that I had felt like that nor the last.

As a youth, I was allowed to pursue interests and explore. Looking back, I am surprised that I was allowed to do so much; many of things I did wouldn’t work in the restrictive, fearful times we live in now and would likely attract undesirable attention, the kind of recent attention given to the boy who built an electronic clock and made the mistake of taking it to school to show his teacher.

I received a lot of positive encouragement, good suggestions, and advice from many persons. Fortunately, even though I was the usual surly teenager with a tendency to look for the reasons why I couldn’t do something, I did listen to advice and I did try to learn from the mistakes of others. My optimism overpowered my pessimism. I made the best decisions possible given my circumstances at the time; I had family, friends, and acquaintances with whom I could talk. In short, I was extremely lucky. I never felt prey to the pressure of peers. I never needed to find myself; I’d wake up in the morning, sweep away the covers and, voilà!, there I was.

Though I didn’t know what to do, I did know what I wanted to do yet I couldn’t do it at the time because I was ill-equipped for the work. But knowing what I wanted to do, I can see now that I accomplished that objective by unconventional means.

We leave home seeking autonomy, yet we remain dependent. Our mechanized society confers great individual freedom by providing a vast division of labor to support our daily needs. We depend on trash collectors, sewage workers, engineers of all kinds, fire service personnel, ambulance workers, doctors, nurses, dentists, carters, carriers, teachers, waiters, cooks, bottle washers, the plumber, the baker, the candle-stick maker, and Uncle Tom Cobley and all.

We are, all of us, dependent on the health of the natural systems of this world that enable life as we know it, Jim. We need to look after each other and do our part to take care of Nature; to do otherwise is the equivalent of shitting in our hats and clapping them on our heads.

So, in three words: I am grateful. I am most grateful to my parents who, by the time I was born, were able to give me a stable home with space in which to grow. I am grateful to my wife who shares in the work of maintaining a home and who is a fine companion. I am grateful to everyone on whose shoulders I sit, just as I sat on the shoulders of my father when I was a small child. I enjoy the support of shoulders uncountable. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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