Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hiss Not Bite

Nothing breaks the magic spell of child's innocence quite as hard as disillusionment with the behavior of an adult - specially one they loved and even considered a role model. This happened with J recently and I had contributed to the situation somewhat tangentially.

If there was one thing I could single that I love the most about J, it would be her sincerity. No matter what the task, she will apply herself to it with enthusiasm and do the best she can. She is also very accommodating of people and circumstances that come into play in the process of doing her work. Whereas another person may get peeved or angry, she will simply work around the issue or the person. Being well-liked is important to J so she will avoid a being unpleasant even when provoked quite a bit. While all of those are good qualities to have, sometimes it can become too much of a good thing. There is a point of inflection where being tolerant starts to look like weakness and being considerate equals being a pushover.

I try to balance affirming the value of the qualities J has innately while teaching her there are times when she must like the proverbial snake hiss even if not bite. But for Sri Ramakrishna's parable I would have found it impossible to resolve the dichotomy that is inherent conveying such a message. The adult in this situation had an axe to grind with me and chose to wage a proxy war through J - hurting and belittling her in the process. But J being J, allowed this to happen time after time assuming that the bad behavior was an aberration - that it would pass and all would be well again. When it had gone a little too far, I was forced to step in.

As J put it "She pushed the buttons on me, the game controller, to make you bounce around on the screen". That is the possibly the end of childhood - to be able to articulate the game an adult is playing in those terms. So after being bounced around for a while and allowing J to be dragged through the unpleasantness of it all, I ended a friendship that had gone a little toxic. The cost to me was minimal - I was merely disappointed in someone who I thought was a friend. For J, it was learning before it's time and not of the kind that makes for the happiest of childhood memories.

She had to stop working on her cardboard model of the Golden Compass (one of her favorite movies - and mainly on account of the concept of the alethiometer) to listen to me talk about the lessons learned, about knowing when to show some fang and hiss, about how far to accomodate and adjust and when to stop doing so. For two years, this person was someone J looked up to and loved like a family member. It was incredibly hard for her to realize that she had been a mere pawn in a game and that the gestures of love and affection she had valued so much may not have been entirely genuine.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Heartcrossings ,

Glad to know you are APPLYING Ramakrishna's wisdom right at this age for J.

Many have voluminous books in their possession , can even quote from memory but fail to internalise them. When hindutvavadis tilt at windmills crying hoarse "hinduismisthe greatest" I quote RP who says:-

" An almanac might say on such and such a date ,it would rain. But not a drop of water is going to be produced by wringing of that almanac ".