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Of Elephant Ropes & Comfy Constraints

My kid is 5 years old. She’s forming as a human being. That “set-by-six” personality that’s very tied to core person who you are so well represented by the movie Inside Out is upon us. Adi has her “islands” and core memories. I think most of them are good. But now, as she reached that point where higher-order abstract thought takes control of the process, and can lead her awry with all its pitfalls, I’m scrambling to write my book for get to illustrate these pitfalls.

Adult words, adolescent themes, and kid’s illustrations. So that means I’ll also be dusting off my illustration skills for this project, which should help me immensely in the professional world as well. That’ll guide the themes at least a little bit to actually be illustrate-able. Woot! I’ve got an actual, workable plan that fits in ideally with my current work-flow.

Book for Adi. Where do we begin? The Big Bang? No, too many prerequisites. Learning to crawl before you can walk? Then slowly learning to talk and express yourself? Then the elements and genes and memes and chlorophyll and the food chain? The feedback loop between observation, self-determination and evolution? Yep, I’ll goo all there. But first… first, there’s the pressing matter of administering antibodies and inoculations against life’s worst.

And so this book. A compilation of some of your father’s finer ramblings. A feeble attempt to bring order to the chaotic miracle deemed commonplace that is my tiny instance of human existence I am granted as the steward of this unique little lump of self-organizing matter you call Dad. Pshwew! Aren’t you glad you don’t have to listen to your Dad all the time? Oh wait, you do? Sorry about that.

Other people’s limits are not your limits. Elephants are not in the circuses much anymore, but they are still occasionally work animals. To train them, single ankles were roped to staked poles to keep them from moving. They learned to not move when they felt it on their ankles. As adults, elephant handlers need only rope the ankle to keep the elephant from moving.

The unspoken other half of this story is that elephants are actually smart enough to know this, much the same way we are all smart enough to know we can leave the safety of our hometown that we were born into, and the people who feed you, express what very much looks like genuine love (or at least a strong relationship). Is it the rope holding these mature elephants, or contentedness and a wee-bit of sheltered-existence?

We are all trained work animals that are often contented. TV, video-games, cheap-food, easy living-conditions and a whole lot of artificial contrivances content us. Breaking those ropes and testing our personal capabilities and limits “in the wild” is one of the most scary and satisfying things we can do as thinking living creatures. Wild creatures do it out of instinct and necessity. Us “cultured” humans have changed the game a bit.

Now, that “roped-in” trapped feeling is just a default easy life-style choice that is way too easy to give into as adults. Artificial, but cozy. Just try moving; you can. You might be surprised how powerful you are as an adult, intelligent and observant human being. That higher-order abstract thinking up there behind your forehead counts for a lot. You can take the reins of your own animal-vehicle and pay attention to whatever signals and suggested constraints you like. Or, you can still fall in line and work the routine. Or you can do the former, and look like you’re doing the later, until the time is exactly right.

But you do so knowing it is by choice, and not a forced un-chosen and difficult-to-escape situation.

Once you can pay your own way in life, the rest is your choices and decisions. The “not while you live under my roof” argument of parents totally dissolves away. You might have some debts to repay, but so what? Order and prioritize your debts according to who you are and what you’re willing to spend. The unreasonable ones that are not financial and have your credit at stake, defer. You don’t have to stay home and take after that sick parent.

Look at alternatives. No one has the right to tie ropes around the ankles of another person as their last means of clinging onto life. Good parents who raised good kids who can handle this situation would have seen after themselves. Living somewhere with low cost of living, plugged into a local support system built up to handle just such old-foks issues. And that can be a very high quality of living, indeed. Just give me a fully charged and stocked Kindle and somewhere pretty and relaxing to read, and pump the meds in.

My job is equipping you so that you’re not so uncontrolled as a mad rogue elephant rampaging through a city when you realize all those rope-constraint feelings are your kid safety-wheels, and you can just take them off as an adult. Or maybe even as a rebellious teenager. And I will encourage you to do so. And I will trust you to do so; because I will have spent a lot of time teaching you what each constraint is for, why it’s there, and some of the pros and cons of cutting it loose.

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