The Awesomeness of the Unknown


What an interesting dream I had.

I was at a swimming pool with the family. It was busy, there were families all around. The swimming pool wasn’t very big as swimming pools go, it had sort of a figure 8 shape and sloped down to a depth of perhaps 10, 15 feet with a light blue bottom. The thing was, there was nobody swimming. Everyone seemed cheerful, children talking and playing, mothers and fathers sitting, walking, talking and relaxing on a bright, sunny day.

I walked by the pool and noticed movement on the bottom. I looked, and there was a grey, sinuous shape swimming, gliding along the floor of the pool. It was a shark. A big one. I then realized why no one was swimming. Angela saw the shark also and complained about it, warning me not to let the kids get into the pool before she walked away, leaving me and the kids there.

So I went into the office to ask why there was a shark in the pool. They were busy in there, the woman was talking to someone about something, so I wandered into another, smaller office and found a pamphlet which named the  creature a Monster Shark, designated it as harmless and stated that it was a playful shark and liked to interact with people. Feeling a bit better and thinking about this, I walked back out to the pool, at which point I noticed that my 5-year old, Alysha, is now in the pool on the deep end, holding on to the side of the pool and grinning at me. She doesn’t seem to care that the shark is there at all. I feel a little concern, mainly because we have already broken her mother’s directives, but immediately go to the other children, Noah and Alysha. I pick up Noah and, with Zora following, go sit by Alysha and slide carefully into the water beside her, with Noah holding me around the neck. Zora gets in too.

Still feeling no fear we float holding the side of the pool and I’m looking back up to where we had been sitting when I am bumped hard from behind. The bump is hard and heavy and I know it is the Monster Shark. I hear Noah scream with laughter and turn to find him holding on to the shark, which has impossibly lifted its head and upper body out of the pool to lean against the side with us, kind of like Shamu at Sea World, which the girls love to go see every summer (in the real and not dream world).

I hold on to the shark and Noah climbs on it, and the Monster Shark gently glides out into the pool, me and the girls in tow, Noah on his back, laughing. I notice that now people are getting into the pool, and then we are at the shallow end, leisurely enjoying our interaction with the creature. There are some utensils of some sort sitting on the side of the pool, large, about my arms length in size. I go to look at them, there are three in total. Two of them are prong-like, with dull, shiny ends, one with cylinders of some sort, the other I don’t remember. The third utensil is a giant knife, and it is very sharp. Even though I feel no danger from the shark, I pick up the knife and turn around to see the Monster Shark back under the water, floating motionless near the bottom, with Noah still on his back. I move toward them and wake up.

My children mean the world to me, so exposing them to danger is not an option. But at the same time, I do not want them to grow up afraid of the world, and of nature specifically. I was raised outdoors as most kids of my generation (gen-X) and before were, and was easily familiar with jumping off of buildings in the first grade, running from dogs and falling out of trees, fighting and crying, pain and the familiar little green bottle and sting of campho-phinique on bloody scrapes and sores.  My parents didn’t have to go outside with us to make sure we were safe, and, during the summers, we would be outside playing from dawn till dusk, exploring neighborhoods and woods, biking and playing sports, finding out the differences between boys and girls and engaging in the dramas that all kids play at in preparation for adulthood. We saw our parents at lunch and dinner, and if we tried to go in the house before either of those, we paid for it with hurt feelings or sore bottoms.

I specifically recall being in the first grade and the adventure of leaving the immediate area of our home on Travis AFB and exploring the adjascent neighborhoods, finding parks filled with strange and exotic children, two larger black girls who chased me out of their park, cursing and threatening me, leaving me wondering what world they inhabited that I wasn’t a part of. Third grade in Greece again, living in Hersonissos on the upsloped rise into the interior and the presence of a deep gorge, at the bottom of which was muddy, standing water. I remember playing at the edge of that gorge with other children, a fall down which would have certainly meant broken bones and almost-certain death. I even remember dreaming about climbing that gorge, reaching the top and falling – or being pushed by another boy – back down its steep slope and into the viscous mud at its bottom, and I’mstillnot certain if that dream was real or not.

I don’t know when it all changed. When the world became what it is and parents in America collectively decided that children were not safe anymore in their own neighborhoods, that they needed constant supervision and limited time outside. Maybe it was when schools started to take merry-go-rounds and see-saws out of the playgrounds, and cities started removing them from parks. Or maybe it was when bike makers and safety organizations began coming out with proclamations regarding the necessity of safety helmets and pads, to be worn whenever a child rode a bike or skateboard or scooter, or some other conveyance or contraption upon which a child stood a good chance of falling off of and scraping or breaking something.

Perhaps it was when they came up with the Amber-alert, and the news started highlighting missing children and sexual offenders in neighborhoods, even though we all knew, growing up, being a part of kid networks the country across, which houses and adults to stay away from, who was creepy and looked at us funny, or was mean or owned crazy animals that ate children for breakfast. Maybe it is different for people who still live in quiet rural or suburban communities. Maybe you don’t have to watch your kids at every step, maybe it’s just the parent’s that I’ve seen in the places I’ve lived since I’ve been a parent, maybe I’m wrong, and, somewhere out there in America, there are still kids running free from dawn till dusk, exploring the world of their senses in all of their awesome exhilaration and perfection. I wonder where this place is, these places are, or if it is just a dream of an America that never existed in the first place.

In this dream, these children are living in another America different from the one we’re in, where the nightly news is about bounteous crop harvests and the newest advances in science. The government is distant and people know their neighbors, there’s no such thing as a War on Drugs, a War on Terror, a War on Poverty, a War on War, because everyone’s happy in their neighborhoods, with their lives, with themselves. In this dream the world is not perfect, there is still racial differentiation and the stress that causes, because difference is life, and change is G-d and people need to learn about each other the hard way, finding peace and reconciliation through the internal journey toward understanding which was the reason we all chose to come back here in the first place. There is still wealth and poverty, because the laws of the multiverse still exist, and karma is there to be accrued and worked out through the dharmic process as we do what we came here to do, living lives of plentifulness and scarcity, working out what we need to work out to become that perfect image of ourselves we are all born to manifest, if not in this lifetime, then the next, or the next, or the next after that.

In this dream, the Monster Sharks turn out not to be so monstrous after all, although the natural protective urges of a parent remain present, we must be ever vigilant regarding our childrens safety, even in the face of apparent peace and stability. Loving our children enough to allow them to experience the world on their own, to bump their heads and scrape their knees, to fall down hard and even break their bones, is a hard, hard thing to do, but a necessary one, if a child is to be raised to be independent and secure in thier confidence in their ability to navigate the world that we cannot protect them from, no matter how much we would like to. Exclaiming at every Amber alert, supiciously growling at every strange car that rolls through the ‘hood, calling our children to us at the sight of every large man that walks by the screaming, gaggling hoards of children on city streets and parks is a perfect way to instill a distrust of experience, of reality itself, within the nascent perspectives of an entire generation of children, teaching them through our example that the world is an ugly and fearful place, to be examined and parsed through suspicous eyes and experienced at controlled intervals – the time between entering and exiting vehicles and buildings – if at all.

I remember childhood, and the awesomeness of the unknown. I am who I am because of who I’ve been and what I’ve done, for better or for worse. I choose to give my children the freedom of their exuberance and curiosity, while remaining vigilant and present. In the determination of dream or reality, I choose to see shades of each during both night and day, and find my reality somewhere in between, above and beyond the vision of a world gone mad, where down is up and out is in, and children play in playscapes on playdates with friends who fear their parent’s fears, and yet live shaped by them, as surely as the trees are, by the light of the sun.

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