Monday, January 23, 2006

"It's okay, it's just pretend. It's not real."

It must be a statement that is a right of passage for parents; similar to the statements of "No, no, get down from there" and "No hitting."

It could be a Tom-and-Jerry cartoon and you find yourself - after Tom is flattened like an accordion - saying to your child, "It's okay, Tom is fine. It's just pretend. It's not real." Or watching movies like The Polar Express and saying again, "It's okay. It's just pretend - a boy can't walk on the top of a train. It's not real." And the list goes on.

Melding my life as a parent and as an adult, I find myself saying this statement more and more to both our eight-year-old son Leo and our two-year-old triplets. With regards to our eight-year-old, it is the images shown on the regular news broadcast - the images of war-torn countries, starvation, violence, apathy, jealousy, indifference... Are these images okay? Absolutely not. Are these images just pretend? Unfortunately, no. Are these images real? I guess that is the most important question of the three...

As I've spent time with my our son in the evenings over these past two months to prepare him for his Catholic passage of First Reconciliation (Confession), I am continually reminded of what Ishared with you, my friend, on January 11, 2006 : Faith enough to make real the things of God. I explain to Leo that much of the pain and suffering in the world is not divinely inspired or created. It is simply a derivative of our flawed and failing human nature. It is caused by the fear, pain, jealousy and anger within ourselves and then played out in greater human arena. People are hurt, disregarded, murdered and devalued stemming from our own personal - and then collective - inadequacies. And as I explain to him, this is not real. It was never intended to be a "normal" part of our everyday life and it was never expected to be a major focus of our life.

Please don't get me wrong. These unfortunate circumstances are very real in our life today. They occur and need to be addressed. But what I am trying to say is that these circumstances are not "things of God" - they are painful mirages and tragic hallucinations that distract us from what is truly real: the divine nature of our human and spiritual journey. Exuding from every pore of Nature, there is a divineness, a realness that God is present among all of Life. This is real and makes all human endeavors and atrocities pale in comparison. And it is this that we should make more real in this life.

Are human atrocities a real aspect of our life? Tragically, yes. But so is compassion, justice, mercy, and hope. And once in awhile, I'm able to sit down with my children and see these elements played on television... and say to them, "Now that's real."