144. Rose-Colored Glasses

There really is a lot of beauty in this world we live in. There are occasional rainbows, the flowers that bloom in the spring, autumn flora (which don’t seem to get as much publicity, and perhaps, as a group, aren’t as dazzling), people’s smiles, random acts of kindness, dragonfies’ wings…Some of the dreariest pessimists I’ve known have seen some of the beauty. The word “but” was too obvious a choice to begin this paragraph. I couldn’t bring myself to start the paragraph with it. But not everything in this world is beautiful. There are wars, diseases, crimes, injustices, and many more items without which the world would be better off. Some of the dreamiest optimists I’ve known, myself included, have seen things they’ve wished weren’t there. There’s a tendency to try to protect children from the less attractive parts of life on earth. Not only to try to protect them from negative experiences. That’s natural, and I believe it’s right, and not just right for children. The people who have spent their lives trying to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, and those who are doing it now, are some of my favorite people. If we keep telling children about beauty, though, and try not to let them know about the other stuff, I think we’re making things worse for them and for the world. They won’t be prepared to cope with the down side, and they won’t be prepared to be part of the struggle to make some things better. I’ve heard people who seem to have taken this line of thinking too far. They want children to be keenly aware of all the ugliness in the world, and they make it their business to let them know about it. They bombard children with gruesome details, unaware that children often aren’t ready to distinguish these details from the everyday lives they live. So children worry about snipers, wars, famines, etc. They worry that the fictional violence they see in the media is real, and the awful events reported in the news are immediately threatening. That all of this is probably going to happen next door tomorrow. I’ve also heard people who go overboard the other way. They present the world as a big version of Disneyland. They carefully screen out all references to the problems in the world. These people will tell children what a dedicated, noble man Martin Luther King was, but won’t mention that he was assassinated. It doesn’t take most children long to discover, on their own, that life is not a bowl of cherries – that sometimes it’s the pits. As they make this discovery, I hope they’re not disillusioned. We can protect them from disillusionment by making sure we teach them about reality – both the good parts (that they’re ready for) and the bad (that they’re ready for).

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