Life

This image was shot just a few days ago on a farm in this county—where my 17 year old daughter was attending a horse show. In between events I usually wander around the place looking for images and ran across this image in one of the equipment sheds.

It’s a pretty good abstract shot I think—I’ll let you be the judge. It brings to mind a cartoon I saw recently—of a tiny baby crawling through the entrance to a complex, endless maze—the sign over the entrance says simply, “Life.”

The ladder in the image symbolizes moving upward—to that which we aspire to and reach for. But what we find there are the endless permutations—the countless varieties of human circumstance and experience that ripple outward forever once we touch the ethereal fabric of awareness and choice.

Grow up—come of age, toss the pebble into time and space—see what happens.

My daughter rides English and has competed for—I guess—7 or 8 years now. On Saturday she was riding a grey gelding named “Cruiser” and she did not do particularly well—won only one 6th place ribbon. I think she is losing interest in the sport. At one time she was a very enthusiastic rider and won a lot of blue ribbons. It seems to be getting harder and harder to get her to practice—there are so many other things she’s more interested in.

She is at times motivated by adolescent rebellion imperatives. I fear I’ve not been much help to her there. Other than things that are safety or health-related I haven’t given her very much to rebel against. I probably remember much better than I ought to—what it was like to be a teenager.

She is rapidly approaching young adulthood. I guess some would say she’s there—being her father it’s hard to be objective. As a child becomes more and more independent and their own person (as opposed to a dependant extension of the parent) the little changes are so gradual they’re easy to miss or discount. We tend to remember—are aware of—only what we have been seeing for all those years—the immature, the amorphous, unformed, evolving, incomplete little human-being. Here awhile back I would often describe her progress in life as “somewhere between lip-gloss and Spongebob Squarepants.’”

(For the uninitiated—“Spongebob Squarepants” is an enormously popular American cartoon character on one of the juvenile cable channels.)

I’ve noticed in the last few months she no longer watches, “Spongebob.”

My son is 23 and a senior at a university in the northern part of this state. He’s doing well. He also used to like Spongebob but these days he doesn’t even watch TV—he’s so focused on career and education. I suspect a little too focused—he appears to be becoming a very driven young man.

That’s the sort of personality trait that can be highly useful and productive but can also be self-defeating if not self-destructive. He’s a very bright man and has a good heart—I’m immensely proud of him. He is of course well beyond any sort of significant influence by a parent. My role in his life is (as I’m sure it is with virtually all parents in similar circumstances) to provide support, information and perspective—on those occasions he asks for it—which isn’t very often any more.

He’s old enough and independent enough to start having concerns for “the old folks.” I was chatting with him last week on the phone—he said something about coming home more often and doing things with me. I, of course would love it, but he’s much too busy for much of that sort of thing. I told him he has no obligations to me—he owes me nothing. I’ve told him several times in recent years it was an honor to be his parent—to help raise him—so many good memories. If anyone owes anything—it’s me owing him.

I reminded him of the movie “Pay it Forward,” and urged him to consider that whatever obligation he might have would be to his own children—if he has any—or to any kids he might choose to mentor later in life.

It’s up to him—it’s his choice of course. I no longer have anything to say about it. But I keep reminding him—good-naturedly but also quite seriously—any decision you make has consequences which a mature, ethical adult has to assume some manner of responsibility for—even though so often we can never anticipate what will eventually occur.

That said—we can’t let a lack of complete knowledge stop us from acting and participating in the human adventure. It is an inescapable fact of life we will always be making choices not knowing fully what will derive from them.

Like so much of life—it’s really very simple—but also very complex.

Grow up, come of age—toss the pebble into time and space—see what happens.

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