Kids in a field: a meditation on fear

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan


Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

A week ago at a family gathering, we witnessed a remarkable event: the kids, about six, took off, crossed the street, and went walking and running into the pasture there.  Several times, they turned, individually and together, and waved at us (still inside, finishing our grand dinner), as if checking that we knew where they were. We all waved back, parents and grandparents, and the kids continued, a couple running ahead to a large pile of firewood, which they climbed as the others reached them. We watched them all race up the field – and out of sight! 
There were trees along the fence line, and
evidently flowers. Each kid returned with a brace of multi-coloured lupins for their moms.  The kids were out of breath; they were radiant. The colour in their faces was
beautiful and they were excited, energized.
That’s the incident I remember most from that party, and I recalled it again as I listened to a news report about the good psychological effects of unsupervised outdoor activity on
children.  The same day, a local MD commented that being in the presence of trees and greenery,
and fresh air, is very
therapeutic and healthy.
CBC news and the doctor both mentioned that, today, kids are kept indoors, fixed on their screens. They do keep themselves in, the kids, but mainly, it seems, it is the parents who agree or initiate the indoors plan – because they’re afraid of dangers outside.  Parents are afraid.  Afraid to the point of limiting healthy activities. 
Makes you wonder if fearful parents should be parents at all.
It also makes you
realize that the people we have most to be afraid of are ourselves.
Our own fears, far from insulating us
from danger, can create
dangers. No doubt we all have to be careful and thoughtful in what we do; there are always unexpected consequences to our decisions. And we
do make mistakes –
constantly. We have to recognize them, but not be immobilized. We humans are apt to getting spooked and stampeded – think of the classic example, the hypnotic Nazi rallies. There are daily examples, much less dramatic, but examples of fear-induced bad judgement.  Keeping the kids closed away from the
out-doors is a big one.
This fear actually throws us into the world’s action: we are in the
picture with terrorist groups, with the old Red threats, queer plots against our kids, we
are threatened by
immigrants, strangers, Muslims — all this stuff.  All these fears are signs to us that we are being stampeded. Towards some cliff, you can be sure. Our own fears are telling us that we are being stampeded – not by the terrorist groups,
separatists, Reds, or Gay activists – stampeded by local forces of manipulation and control.
Being able to
recognize when we’re being manipulated is a fundamental tool:  just check our own fear level.
All the problems we face today – raising kids, earning a living, planning our futures – they all are better solved with careful thought and some fresh air. The Japanese call it “forest bathing”. Clean lungs, deeper breaths – outside, we’re going free, even for a few minutes, just like the kids in the field who ran out of sight.
So, get outdoors, and without our phones! Walking, with a bit of fresh air is an easy tactic. We have to let our kids out, without bossy,
organizing and supervising adults.
Then we have to let ourselves out.