July 12, 2006
Time for contemplation
"Must you analyze everything?" my students will ask me sometimes, exasperated. The answer, of course, is yes. I’m not a big believer in turning off the brain and just accepting whatever the dominant culture hands me. My students complain that I spend too much time thinking, and that it is a contagious disease. They say I keep ruining things for them; I’ve wrecked their enjoyment of everything from television to high heels to fast food.
I even have a philosophy about vacation time. I'm not a fan of theme parks and environments that are carefully controlled by a big corporation. When we talk about this kind of thing in class, students will often defend Biggest Theme Park in the Country because it is "fun." That always seems a peculiar defense to me. Anyone who knows me can see that both the kids and adults in my family know how to have fun; I don't feel as a parent that fun is something I am obligated to provide. Sure, any vacation we take will include all kinds of fun. We have fun even when we are all locked in a vehicle on a highway, playing games. But I am wary of vacations that seem like an escape from life, rather than a way to embrace life.
On vacation, I want my kids to learn how to relax, how to enjoy quiet time, how to connect to the natural world. I suppose this is because that is the way I was raised. When I was a kid, summer was always about camping, hiking, swimming, and sailing. Summer was a time for reading, for thinking, and for relaxing. And I think that more than ever, in the busy, stressful world we live in, the ability to slow down and take time to think about life is an important survival skill. It's important to know how to make use of silence.
One of my friends actually said to me once, "You know what I like about your family? You all know how to do nothing." I think she meant it as a compliment.
That's one of the things I love about camp. Despite the whirl of activities like bocce and frisbee, sailing and canoeing and swimming, we have all kinds of quiet time. Time to take a nap, write in a journal, or stare into the water. Being in a beautiful outdoors setting teaches us how to be reflective. I'll often find one of the kids just sitting on the dock, staring at the little frogs, or lying in the sun, or relaxing on a rock. Even the youngest child in the family knows how to take a moment for contemplation.
Posted by jo(e)