4/26/2009 7:27

Growing Up

Growing up, in actual reality, is all about mixed messages. On the one hand, you are supposed to think for yourself and make your own decisions. On the other hand, your decisions are usually wrong and your explanations unacceptable.

Suppose (as really happened) you are a young boy and you know a friendly neighborhood dog. You and your friends have often visited the dog and one of your friends has been known to climb into the dog's doghouse. This afternoon, as you are walking past, you see the dog outside in his yard. Why wouldn't you walk over to him and say hello?

This is what grown-up people do in actual reality. They take the best information we have, make a judgement, and then act on their judgement. If you are going to become a grown-up, this is what you need to do.

Unexpectedly, the dog jumps up and hits you in the mouth. Your gum is cut open (right where a new tooth is coming in). Of course, you run home to your parents and are taken care of.

In the actual reality game the parents always have the advantage. The boy is wrong; the parents have warned him; they told him the rules; he didn't follow instructions. The injury is proof enough that the boy did something wrong. How can you argue with that?

Then too the boy offers his explanation for why this good dog misbehaved on this particular occasion. The boy compares everything he remembers about past visits with the recent circumstances and explains the different behavior as being the result of the different circumstances.

In actual reality this is how human beings play the game. Creating explanations is what we do; it is what makes us human. Our explanations aren't always accurate, often because our memory is less than accurate (or at least less than complete). If you are going to be a scientist or a detective, you need to take additional steps to test your explanation. But first you need to find an explanation to test.

Of course, the boy's explanation is wrong. At least his father says that he's wrong. Neither one of them can prove their theory.

If what the boy has done is to be human, if his thinking shows that he is playing the actual reality game the way that all human beings play the game, why then is his father so upset with him? That's easy: Because the play the boy made resulted in an injury.

Being an adult, in actual reality, is also about mixed messages. On the one hand, you are supposed to encourage your child to be more and more grown-up, to think for himself and make decisions based on the best information available. On the other hand, you are supposed to keep him safe.

In the actual reality game, the rules aren't always entirely consistent. But the mized messages are part of the game and one of the challenges is how to rationalize the contradictions.