I’ve mentioned Tom Hodgkinson on here before. He’s the editor of The Idler, and has written books “How to Be Idle”, “How to be Free” and “The Idle Parent”. I love the principles expressed in “How to be Free” (though not all the ideas in the book), and while I don’t agree with the term Idle I think The Idle Parent is a must-read and describes well how I was brought up and how I wish to bring up my own children.
I’m writing a series of blog posts exploring these two books, and the ideas contained in them further, in the hope that this will help me to explore further the principles behind my own way of living and parenting.
Chapter 11 - Smash the fetters of fear - RIDE THE CHARIOT OF FIRE
In this chapter Tom talks about how fearful we all seem at the moment. We seem to cling to security, unwilling to trust people, unwilling to chat freely with people, or to walk in the countryside (sticking to 'safe' paths). He reflects how much more fun things must have been when we freely allowed our children to be looked after by neighbours, chatted over fences and rode around on horses (how safe we all feel in our motorised metal boxes!).
Fear keeps us as observers of life rather than participants. The TV, the car, they all allow us to keep the world at arm's length, instead of really feeling it. Fear controls us, it's fear of punishment that keeps the class quiet, it's fear of the sack that keeps unhappy workers from grumbling too loudly. We're all frightened. Many of us are unhappy with the world as it is, but change is scary, and it's much easier to go along with things that we don't like than to rock the boat. Because we can do so little for ourselves (such as fix our own pipes, grow our own food), we rely on others, and dependence is scary.
He suggests that we acknowledge our fear, and then laugh at it, ignore it, and go and live life.
I think it's true. We are all fearful. I know somebody very fearful indeed of change, and of rocking the boat. I'm a little stronger in that I'm much more prepared to make a fool of myself. I don't mind saying I don't know something, I don't mind going up to a stranger and asking them something or asking the way, or asking somebody I've met several times what their name is. I'm much less cautious than some with the children, and encourage them to play on their own and to climb and run and slide. I'm happy to walk anywhere and to engage anybody in conversation. I think I'm a pretty good participant in life rather than an observer.
But I am still nervous. I'm nervous of how I'm perceived (a little), I'm nervous of getting things dreadfully wrong. I'm definitely nervous of upsetting people. And I'm scared of having no money. Hmmm... plenty of room for improvement then, and for finding that chariot of fire and clambering (no... leaping!) aboard!