We all need certain inputs if we’re to be deeply healthy… if we’re to have healthy souls. But for children this is even more important. If they get the right fuel for their souls, they’ll build not just better hearts and minds, but better expectations of life, which will guide them positively, and may guide their families for generations.
Today I’ll give you a brief list of specific types of fuel for healthy souls. I’m adapting them from the work of Abraham Maslow, who studied the healthiest people he could fine, hoping to determine what sorts of things made them that way.
These are the things that healthy (“self-actualizing”) people need. If we can furnish them to our children as they develop, we’ll be directly improving them, our extended families, and the broader world.
Please understand, that if we do this well, the effects we generate will carry, not just through our families, but through the world as a whole, and for as long as the human species may endure. The consequences of this work, that is to say, are permanent.
Here’s the list:
Truth, and not dishonesty. Truth allows our inner processes to work smoothly, while dishonesty complicates them and clogs them. Truth in the home allows children to develop naturally, and not burden their minds with the development of predator-prey routines. If they become constantly guard against being deceived… hardening themselves because deception could slap at them any time… their minds (even their physical brains) will function much differently, and much worse. They may be able to pull themselves out of it when older, but not without a lot of luck and/or work.
Goodness, rather than evil. As with the section above, dealing with goodness is far more efficient and is far more conducive to health and progress. There is evil in our world, but our internal foundations should not be tainted with it. Dealing with evil should be a set of add-on skills, not foundational skills.
Beauty rather than ugliness. Children, and adults too, should be nourished with beauty and truth, and not filled with the ugly and the vulgar. These things divert our development. Dark calls to the dark and builds the dark; good calls to the good and builds the good.
Wholeness and internal harmony, rather than a splintered and discordant interior universe. We are organisms, not machines, and when an organism has an internal harmony, it can defend against all sorts of external assaults: It’s fundamental operating pattern will be health, and the organism will adapt to disease (of whatever type), eliminating it quite well in the majority of cases.
Aliveness rather than mechanization. As above, we are organisms, which is far better than being mechanisms. Legalistic and mechanical standards, if they are imposed upon an organism, generate entropy in that organism, and the organism may not be able to overcome it.
Uniqueness, not uniformity. Conformity is not only an imposition of mechanization upon an organism, but a fundamental insult to a self-referential being. It is anti-self, anti-soul and anti-life. And, considering the hormonal and neurological effects it has inside self-referential humans, it might fairly be called a chemical weapon.
Completeness, rather than fractured things. Healthy souls prefer completeness, because they can use such things and learn from such things. Completeness may not always be available, but it should be grasped when it is. Fractured and discordant inputs to minds, especially young minds, generate static and blockages; they are to be avoided, regardless that many people see them as “fine,” and “normal.”
Simplicity rather than complexity. For the same reasons as above. But note that the arrangement of affairs in the world move toward increasing complexity. In other words, they operate by an opposing principle to the principles of a healthy soul. And here we find another principle: that our own health must be preferred to the demands of a poorly developed and self-contradictory world.
Richness, not environmental impoverishment or sameness. We are multi-color beings, not monochrome beings, We’re able to operate in many different environments, to interact beneficially in radically different situations and with people of widely differing backgrounds. Moreover, this is healthy for us. As exercise is to the body, richness of environment is to our souls.
Playfulness rather than drudgery. Fun is frequently underrated. A good deal of that comes from people passing-off their vices as “fun,” but fun proper is a virtue rather than a vice. Fun engages us very broadly and trains us in harmonious effort toward a beneficial goal. Drudgery is very much the opposite: it tends to degrade self-value. There is virtue in accepting drudgery for a valuable end (like a better life for our children). Drudgery itself, however, has no virtue, and is to be avoided.
Self-sufficiency, not dependency. Humans, to function at their full (or anywhere near it), need to know that they are capable beings. They need to know that they are a net positive in the universe. That’s why even significantly damaged people can be helped by doing things for people more damaged than themselves. By it, they see and know that they are creating benefit, and that they deserve the help they’ve been given by others. Dependency is a poison; a wound upon the human soul. Certainly we’ve all needed a hand at some point in our lives, but our normal condition has to be self-sufficiency. Even children, born into complete dependence, need to grow out of it rather earlier than later.
Meaningfulness, rather than arbitrariness. We need to see a world where the things we do matter. In a truly arbitrary world, we’d lose essential portions or our humanity.
The Old Fuel, Still Essential
Healthful development seems to come only from human interaction. And that means that conveniences – mostly electronic these days – are not suitable replacements.
I’m not saying that anything electronic or convenient is bad, but I am saying that we shouldn’t imagine that our kids will gain their development that way, or even that “It’ll happen somehow.”
I understand the overburdened and burnt-out parent – I’ve been that parent, and more than once – but if we can’t spend more energy that particular day, we have to remember that somehow, the right inputs have to be provided later. If we can’t do it, perhaps a grandparent, aunt or uncle can.
Children don’t have to be perfectly attended every day. Every parent has limited abilities, and this is a difficult world. But in the end, we can’t imagine that these things will just happen; we have to make them happen.