Letter to my Grandchildren: How are you going to avoid getting caught up in this mess?




This world has many faces, some of which I have seen.  Some are beautiful; the monkey swinging from tree to tree, the elephant in its silent swaying walk, and the sea’s deep rolling sound.  Others are ugly; plastic littering the undergrowth and choking the rivers; the violence and greed of humanity.  You both have beautiful smiles, and as you run towards us with your arms outstretched it is like being drowned in warming sunshine.   You are happy being you; neither of you want to be anything other than what you are.  Your parents care for you; delight in your company when you are awake and relish the quiet when you are asleep.  You are both very young: one embarking on a new, larger world; the other experimenting with sight, sound and movement.  Steadily, almost imperceptibly, you are moving towards independence, standing alone, thinking for yourselves, being yourselves.

How will you fare in this world of many faces?  Will you be devoured by the brutality of it all?  Or will you hold on to that sensitivity that you both so cheerfully possess?   Will the violence of competition, ambition, aspiration engulf you so that you are left struggling in the mire of life that has so carelessly been left by me and my generation?  I have seen them on the streets of the towns and cities and in the villages of India; children of your age struggling to survive, their thin bodies clothed in rags.  I have seen their smiles, fleeting and questioning under the weight of intense hardship.  I have seen them in the streets of Britain, cowering under the rage of desperate parents, already consigned to the role of the under-class.

Will you continue to learn about life, about who you are and feel free to explore?  Today you play by the sea and walk in the hills; you breathe the air that carries the promise of spring, the scent of a summer to come and feel the bite of last chill winds of winter.  Will you when, hard times come to you, as they do to us all, walk quietly to the trees, the shore or the rivers to gather yourselves, to reflect, to find strength?  You both delight in the flight of birds, the scurrying of animals and the swift, darting movements of fish.  Will you care for them?  Will you share your world with them and not crush them under your feet?

When each one of you sits on my knee and we read a book or look at the world outside, your breathing and your bodies are so strong and yet so fragile.  Sometimes you put your arms around my neck and hold your face next to mine and we are together, all of humanity, timeless in communication beyond words, beyond explanation:  the old man and his grandson, for that moment cease to exist.  Then you laugh, slip off my knee and go back to your playing, whilst I watch and learn about you and me.

Will you be forced to fit in?  Will fear come to dominate your every move, as it did for me when I was young?  Will you have to be the best, or will you decide you are no good?  Like us you are the product of your parents, and yet you carry all of humanity within you.  Will you find out what you really love doing and do that?  Will you care for others without being asked?

Both of you are so full of life; interested, thoughtful, over-flowing with questions.  Your lives are just beginning, whilst mine is approaching its final phases.  Yet our lives, yours and mine, are touched by the same fragility and we share the same uncertainty of our continuity. So, though we are divided by time and separated by distance may we learn together without judgement – you need neither my condemnation nor my approval.  It is the joy of being related to all living things that nurtures our spirit, and it is the delight of discovering this that unites humanity.

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