Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Clever Thoughts -- Tame vs Civilized

Do you remember Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handy? I'm dating myself, I know. But I thought I would make Tuesday our day for slightly less irrelevent Clever Thoughts. I am known for beginning lengthy monologues with the phrase: "I have a theory about that, actually . . . ". So I thought it would be fun to post some of those, along with ideas and activities and occasionally products that are, well, clever.

I have a cat. She is generally referred to by others as the "Do you still have that evil cat in your basement?" cat. Her name is Beckett (serves me right for naming my cat after a reclusive, postmodern playwright). She lives in my house, and she is tame -- she can not catch a mouse, and she would survive in the wild for about 10 seconds. But she is definitely not civilized. She hisses and growls at everyone but me, and only really pays attention to me when she is hungry or when she wants to sit on my sewing.

My children, conversely, are definitely not tame. When they arrive at the park, most of the other parents are taken aback as my two boys tear around the park, ignoring the equiptment and yelling, "I'm BATMAN" and making shooting noises. They like to wear stripes and checks in contrasting colours at the same time. They tend not to give the "right" answer to questions, or do the playgroup craft in the proper order (they do the cutting and gluing before the colouring). They climb big rocks by themselves and run up and down the sidewalk in front of our house relatively unsupervised. They are just a little bit wild.

But I am trying to teach them to be civilized. To respect others and treat them with kindness and compassion. To think about how their actions effect their friends and family, and society as a whole, rather than just doing what is best for them. To respect authority figures and obey the rules of the house. To follow the rules that matter -- the ones that allow us all to live together well -- but not to conform simply for the sake of conformity. To gain the self confidence that comes through overcoming adversity and acting virtuously. I would like to teach them to be the sort of people who make civilization work.

Really civilized people are not always tame -- they stand up when others fall back and hide in the crowd. They speak out when something needs to be said, but no one has the courage to say it. They take risks and rise to challenges and reject mediocrity. They stand out and, like Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, they might not be safe, but they are good.

How would you define the difference between tame and civilized?

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