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03 October 2012


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This is why we go to the desert or the sea. Even a child cannot remain unmoved in such surroundings.

Farmer Don

Great Article!
You are right kids today brought up by "good" Parents don't get to just wander around looking at the world and the people in it observing. Everyone is too scared to let their children do that. The radius now surrounding a child, the distance he can walk to and from in an hour or so, is usually too dangerous to let a child explore in. Most children no longer live in a world where there is a bit of nature with no traffic left. They no longer live in a world where other adults in this area know who they belong to and for the most part keep an eye our for the child and let him or her watch what they are doing. A parent would be reported to the police if he just let his child roam as he wished.
This also has changed the feeling of a child to the world. A child in the world you describe has a feeling that he is a significant part of the world, he feels he has time to interpret the world around him, that what he does can change the world around him, and he takes this feeling into his adulthood.
A child that roams around on his own also sees adults working and sees that making real things takes time. (I used to wander over to my uncles farm and see him build farm machinery in the Winter.)
A lot is lost when a child is not free to roam if he wishes and observe the world.

Bill H

The first actual memory I have of my father was a vacation cabin in Ruidoso, New Mexico when I was still small. Some friend had lent us horses and one of them had thrown me. I was struggling to regain my feet and the horse was charging me when Dad stepped in front of me. He picked up a rock and faced the horse, his back to me, holding the rock in his hand. When the horse was close enough he hit the horse squarely between the eyes with the rock. To the best of my recollection he never let go of the rock.

Of course he then caught the damned horse and helped me back into the saddle.

He also taught me to read books not just to finish them, nor merely for the story, but to savor the craftsmanship of the author, which requires attention and focus. It is due to his tutoring that, sixty years later, I can enjoy a good book as much the third time I read it as I did the first.


RE: "Programs like “Pawn Stars” teach a child the price of everything and the value of nothing."

Kids should be watchin' stuff with a little more content.


At the very least the above educates them on things money can never buy: their heritage.


Bill H

A Hemingwayan childhood. i had an uncle who provided that kind of guidance for me. See wiki on John H lang pl

William R. Cumming

"All children have a natural desire, akin to curiosity, for widening their range of acquaintance, with persons and things."

A brilliant post and many thanks for it! The sentence above reveals a clue as to a future where few will have curiosity. This is what brought on compliance with the "isms" of the 20th Century.

Now of course we seem to have many religions out of the desert that rely on lack of curioisty of their believers. The followers of Jim Jones and their deaths by drinking an unknown liquid is now regarded in comments as they drank the coolaid.

This is a far more important topic than many. Few of the political appointees I met at my level had much curiosity and thought that as long as they followed along they would be successful. Just as the followers of Hitler and Himmler could not be curious (perhaps knowing of their punishment) probably good that the Holocaust Museum in DC since we the citizens and residents of the USA could easily be brought by our political leadership and MSM to hate the other and the failure of US to read indicates the road has been cleared for USA failures also.

Thanks again Richard for your insights.

Babak Makkinejad

Mr. Sale:

Treatment of children cannot be understood without understanding the disposition of the mothers.

I think there is now a Cult of Child in the United States.

This cult, like the Cult of Mother earlier, is presided over by American women - largely wives.

And the husbands are the loosers in this; yet again as one make-believe game replaces yet another make-believe game.

Paul Escobar

Mr. Sale,

I grew up in the city, in a small two bedroom apartment where I bunked with my little brother.

Nothing like the country life you describe...but much of your post still resonated with me.

My mother did an interesting thing. She bought a television, but she refused cable. This had the effect of making television a chore rather than a guilty pleasure.

It also had the effect of making the park & public library havens of stimulation.

When the basketball courts or baseball fields were occupied, I would just "hang" & talk with the United Nations panel that constituted my playmates (native Canadians, Serbs, Jamaicans, Pakistanis). When we wanted to avoid tedious homework, we would race from the libraries work-desks to its shelves containing Asterix & Tintin comics...imagining ourselves exploring the world & its peculiar cultures.

By the time I was in highschool, I was reading an English translation of Homer's 'Iliad'...just because the cover intrigued me. It was abundant in physical detail, but sparing in drama...yet I remember being so moved by it. My mind would fill in the missing "details" of emotional context...I felt Achilles' rage & Hector's bravery.

Of course, I still had my version of the bobcat. When I was a little boy, I tried to help a fallen deaf teenage boy. Without going into details, he misinterpreted my intent & beat me to a bloody mess.

Hampered by stitches & a worried mother, I spent weeks just sitting on my balcony watching people play & go about their business. On one such day, I watched a man hit a dog with his car. The dog-owner ran towards it screaming & crying. I recognized the dog-owner as our neighbourhoods scariest teenage gangster. His father was an imprisoned Hells Angel, and years before he had stolen only basketball.

I remember going through a range of emotions.

At first, I feared for the driver as he explained it was a genuine accident. I was sure the "gangster" wouldn't accept that. Well, the dog owner just accepted the explanation & turned his attention to the injured dog.

Then I spent time convincing myself to feel glee. This guy had crossed me and my friends many times and he should have deserved it. Well, I just watched in sadness as he held his dogs head on his lap & talked to it aimlessly.

Then I got up, walked downstairs and joined the huddled masses in offering what futile assistance we could.

Kyle Pearson

There are too many people on this planet, now, for wildlife to survive the worries of parents and consternations of "development".

The fault is not with children, nor media, nor modernity, but with the sad byproduct of overwhelming biological success.


This resonated with me in its poignancy. Thank you for sharing.

The Twisted Genius

Thank you Mr. Sale for this excellent article. It shares some of the ideas developed by Eric Sloane in his philosophy of awareness. In my opinion, Sloane distilled what it means to be a rural New Englander. I also share his love of old barns.


My father instilled a reverence for nature in me and my siblings at an early age. I remember following my father into the woods the morning after a rain to hunt mushrooms. He passed on his knowledge of what to eat and what to avoid. We would often just go for a walk in the woods for no other reason than to enjoy the woods. He also gave each of us a plot of land to start our own gardens. One year I decided to grow popcorn. From start to finish it was a lot of work, but it gave me great satisfaction to have supplied the family with popcorn for a very long time. Once he gave me an old lawnmower engine and a workspace in the barn. As a tool and die maker at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, this was how he introduced me to the mechanical world. He told me that if I got it running, we would build a go cart. It took a lot of library study, disassembly and rebuilding, but we built that go cart. I still do a lot of the work on my cars.

I endeavored to do the same for my sons. I can now see the evidence that I was at least partially as successful with them as my father was with me.

different clue

I wonder if the problem for children today is a passive failure to train them to pay attention to things, or the active provision of an all-surrounding media input environment that is designed to destroy their brain's ability to develop the inter-brain-cell connections involved in paying attention to begin with. I wonder if the provision of zero-media time including time for solitude would counter the attention-deficit creating effects of today's all-surrounding always-on media environment.

I remember from very small childhood how Dad would play a classical music record shortly after he got up for us kids to get up to (as well as to hear himself). That and other things may have primed me early for patient listening to sonic input, both musical and non-musical alike. Also, when I was very young, he would every so often take down from a high shelf his big "bird book" and let us kids (sometimes just me) look at the pages as he turned them. He would sometimes tell us what the birds in the pictures were. I looked forward to growing up enough to someday be allowed to handle that book all by myself, which I eventually did. I am still interested in birds and books all this time later.

When I was about 10 years old he did something to teach us kids about paying "safety and survival attention". He brought in something in a jar and showed it to us. He told us it was a "black widow spider" and showed us what its identifying marks were. He said their bite was very painful and could make us sick or even send us to the hospital, but they wouldn't bite unless they were very severely bothered. "They live in the back yard in some of the weeper holes and under some of the flower pots, so be careful and don't bother them." We payed attention to being careful and not bothering them.

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