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Part II - Chapter 1 - Conversation with parents and teachers
It is always exciting to go to a new country, especially when you are very young. One feels that very much in this country where there is great physical freedom, where everyone seems to have so much energy, where there is a restless, changing activity that seems to have no end. From coast to coast, except for one or two cities, the great towns are all alike. But the country is vast and extraordinarily beautiful with its great spaces, deserts and long, winding deep rivers. You can find all climates here from the tropics to high, snowy mountains.
Over looking the blue Pacific, in a large room several of us were talking about education. A tall man in a tweed jacket said: "My sons and daughters are in revolt. They seem to regard their home as a passage to somewhere else. They have a feeling that they cannot be told anything, that they have all the answers. They dislike any form of authority or what they think is authority. They are naturally against war, not because they have thought a great deal about the causes of war, but because they are against killing other human beings; yet they would approve of war for certain causes. They are strangely violent, not only with us, but they are against the government, against this and that. They say they are against conformity but from what I have seen of them and the friends they bring home they are as conforming in their way as we ever were. Their form of conformity is long hair, dirty, bare feet, general slackness and promiscuity. They have their own language. My son has taken drugs. He could have done very well at the university but he has dropped out. Although he is sensitive, intelligent and what one would call thoughtful, he is caught up in this maelstrom of chaos. His whole generation is against the established order, whether it is that of the university, the government or the family. Some of them read books on mysticism or indulge in black magic and other strange occult subjects. Some of them are really very nice, gentle, quiet, but with a sense of agonizing despair."
Another man spoke. "It is all very well while they are young but what will happen when they are older? In a country like this they can earn a few dollars easily and live on them for a while but as they grow older they will find it isn't as simple as they thought it would be. In revolt against our affluent society they turn to what they call a simple life; they want to go back to a primitive life and become like savages with many wives and children, digging a little in the garden and so on. They form communes. Some of them are serious but then others drift in and upset all their plans. And so it goes on."
The third man said: "I don't know the cause of all this. As parents we are blamed for their upbringing, for their revolt, for their lack of respect. Of course we parents have our own difficulties. Our families are broken up, we quarrel, we are bored with what we are doing, we are deep down hypocrites. We keep our religion for the week ends and the rest of the week we are merely tamed savages. Our children see all this - at least mine do - and naturally they have scant respect for us. We voted for our leaders and they despise those leaders. We have been to colleges and universities, they see what we are like and naturally - I don't blame them - they don't want to be like us at all. My son called me a hypocrite to my face and as he was telling a fact, I couldn't do anything about it. This revolt is sweeping the world."
And the fourth said: "If you ask them what they want to do, except for those who are committed to a particular political action - and fortunately there aren't too many of those - they will tell you, 'We don't know and we don't want to know. We know what we don't want and as we go along we will find out.' Their argument is very simple: 'You knew what you wanted to do - get more money and a better position and look where you have brought the world. We certainly don't want that.' Some of them want an easy, comfortable life, drifting, yielding to every form of pleasure. Sex is nothing to them. I wonder why all this has come about so suddenly in the last few years. You have often been to this country: what do you think is the cause of all this!
Isn't there a deeper cause, a deeper movement of which perhaps the younger generation is not aware? In a society or culture that is so rich physically, with an astonishing technology, a people with so much energy may be living a very superficial life. Their religious beliefs and their struggles are not conducive to looking deeply within themselves. The outward thrust of material well-being with all its competitiveness, its wars, seems to satisfy them. They don't seem to want to investigate much wider or deeper, though they want to conquer space. They are concerned with the outer explosion - more of this and more of that - and are committed to the enjoyment of pleasure. Their God is dead, if they ever had a God. Volumes have been written about them, they have been analysed and put into categories. They even have classes where they learn to be sensitive. The feeling for vocation has come to an end. Life has become standardized and meaningless, with overcrowded cities, endless motorways and all the rest of it. What have you to offer to the young? What have you to give them - your worries, your problems, your absurd achievements? Naturally any intelligent person must revolt against all this. But that very revolt has in it the seed of conformity: conforming within one's own group and opposing another group. The young start out by revolting against conformity and end up conforming in a most absurd way just as thoroughly. You have lived for pleasure and they want to live for their own kind of pleasure. You have helped to bring about war and naturally they are against war. Everything that you have done, built and produced is for material well-being which has its place, but when that becomes an end in itself, then chaos begins. One wonders if you really love your children? Not that others do in other parts of the world; that is not the point. You may care for them when they are very young, give them what they want, give them the best food, spoil them, treat them like toys and use them for your own fulfilment and enjoyment. In this there is never any restraint, never a feeling for an austerity that is not at all the harshness of the monk. You have an idea that they must move freely, must not be repressed, that they must not be told what to do; you follow what the specialists recommend and the psychiatrists say. You produce a generation without restraint and when they revolt you are horrified, or pleased, according to your conditioning. So you are responsible for all this.
Doesn't this indicate, if one may ask, that there is no real love? Love has become merely a form of pleasure, a spiritual or physical entertainment. In spite of all the care you gave them when they were small you allow them to be killed. In your heart you want them to conform, not to your pattern as parents, but to the structure of a social order that is in itself corrupt. You are horrified when they spit on all this but in a strange way you admire it. You think it shows great independence. After all, historically you left Europe to be independent and so the circle is everlastingly repeated.
They were quiet. And then the tall man said, "What is the cause of all this? I understand very well what you say. It is clear and obvious when you look at it. But underneath what is the meaning of it?"
You have tried to give significance to a life that has very little meaning, that is very shallow and petty, and failing in this you try to expand it on the same level. This expansion can go on endlessly but it has no depth, no profundity. The horizontal movement will lead to all kinds of places that are exciting and entertaining, but life remains very shallow. You may try to give depth to it intellectually but it is still trivial. To a mind that is really enquiring, not merely verbally examining or intellectually putting together hypotheses, to the enquiring mind the horizontal movement has very little significance. It can offer nothing except the very obvious, and so the revolt again becomes trivial because it is still moving in the same direction - outward, political, reformatory and so on. The only revolution is within oneself. It is not horizontal but vertical - down and up. The inward movement in oneself is never horizontal and because it is inward it has immeasurable depth. And when there is really this depth it is neither horizontal nor vertical.
This you don't offer. Your Gods, your preachers, your leaders are concerned with the superficial, with better arrangements, better systems and organizations which are necessary for efficiency; but that is not the total answer. You may have a marvellous bureaucracy but it inevitably becomes tyrannical. Tyranny brings order to the superficial. Your religion which is supposed to offer depth is the gift of the intellect, carefully planned, recognized and believed in, a thing of propaganda.
But this has no inward beauty. As long as education is concerned merely with the culture of the outer, specializing, enforcing conformity, the inner movement with its immense depth will inevitably be for the few, and in that also there lies great sorrow. Sorrow cannot be solved, cannot be understood when you are running with tremendous energy along the superficial. Unless you solve this through self-knowing you will have revolt after revolt, reforms which need further reformation, and the endless antagonism of man against man will go on. Self-knowing is the beginning of wisdom and it does not lie in books, in churches or in the piling up of words.