Contemplations from the Marianas Trench

from the Marianas Trench

The Contemplations Continue.....

"History and Textbooks"

I am by nature, upbringing and eduation a historian. By nature because every child is a historian. They don't know documentation, but they can most certainly tell you history. "You let (subsitute any sibling name) do it when they were my age..." And it wouldn't matter if the Contemplator had evidence to the contrary, because the one of the most important lessons the Insirations learn is that just because something is in writing doesn't not make it so. Hoisted by her own petard. (Which is a good topic for another contemplation come to think of it.)

I am a historian by upbringing because our house was full of books (to this day it is the first thing I look at when I go to someone's home for the first time - then I look at their music - then their pets... If they are lacking all three I leave very quickly). Our home was full of books because was always had to look things up. We could hardly ever have a discussion or watch tv without asking questions. And being the Nelsons we very often had to look things up to prove which one of us was right about what was being discussed.

I am also a historian because Dad made history most interesting. He would say things like, "Socrates had all his great thoughts when he was going to the bathroom." (Only father, being a ship's captain said it in much more colorful language). Father doesn't believe in documentation either because I have never seen this fact in print. It probably is in print somewhere but perhaps not - we are perfectly capable of making up such fascinating facts. And if we did not, kudos to the historian who did.

I have continued my father's tradition. One day the third Inspiration asked me about Edgar Allen Poe. Not thinking much of it I said he had married his cousin who died young, he was afraid of being buried alive and died a drunkard. This he promptly passed on word for word to his third grade class the next day in the report he hadn't told me he had to give...

After reading the third Inspirations text I have decided the short sweet, perhaps not completely accurate - but always interesting Nelson history is better than what is being passed off as fact in textbooks. At issue is a social studies chapter on William Penn (we live, of course, in Pennsylvnia). I turns out William Penn was "handsome." By whose standard? If he had been butt ugly would they have said so? Another passage said the Indians were "proud of their governor"... Why? Because he won many foot races! The fact that he was the rare white man who treated them with respect and kept his word is not even mentioned. I don't believe the concept of respect and honesty are concepts too difficult for fourth graders to grasp... Daily practice might be difficult - particularly in family situations, but understanding should not be.

Completely apart from the historical inaccuracies (this not being a comment on the attractiveness of Governor Penn - or more seriously his place in history), what does this teach children? It teaches children that great men are handsome and athletic. No wonder John Quincy Adams is hardly mentioned in fourth grade social studies! No wonder past portrait painters painted likenesses that weren't. They understood history. If they had understood it better they would have painted likeness that weren't - on a horse (because all great men are BOTH handsome and athletic - of course it would have to be an attractive, athletic horse too).

The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 1997


Yes, I am not a teenager - but no, this is not about METAmucil and biological irregularity. Certainly that is a topic worthy of contemplation in some circles, mainly doctor's offices and commercials, and I suppose, some parties after a lot of liquor has been consumed and the guests who discuss quantum physics have left... However, I am not a doctor, I'm not selling anything (though you can send me five dollars for nothing) and I have not been drinking -so we are discussing irregularity of the non-Metamucil kind.

Regularity is supposed to be good for you - even critical for children, who the experts say, prefer a schedule - in spite of all indications to the contrary. Whose children are they studying? They should be studying the Inspirations. They would then never again generalize. All text would have to be footnoted with the exception of the Inspirations.

I believe this myth prevails because adults prefer young children have a schedule. Then they can continue to discuss things like 2 o'clock feedings instead of "random feedings throughout the night" - which was certainly my experience. The myth prevails with teenagers because no one wants to admit teenagers are really aliens - at least not in print. This is also a subject for parties after lots of liquor has been consumed and the guests who discuss quantum physics have left (because they don't comprehend teenagers either). Teenagers are irregular by nature. On a scale of one to ten (it doesn't matter which is low and which is high) - the days they are not one they are ten, and the minute you suggest their mood is a ten it is a one and vice versa. (One should never say the word MOOD to a teenager).

We are irregular in everything. Our meals are always at different times. That is to say we drive to MacDonald's at several different times most days - but no, not every day - contrary to the prevailing belief because we are sometimes known to go to Hardees.

The Contemplator doesn't think irregularity is a problem. Thanks to Metamucil irregularity has a horrible connotation. We prefer to look on the positive side. Irregularity is really flexibility. The Contemplator and Inspirations are not locked into other people's standards and schedules. We are accustomed to doing things "whenever" (hence my "whenever" page updates) - and we are adaptable and flexible (of course, only when we want to be). Which, of course, makes us difficult for most people to handle. No wonder experts prefer schedules. Maybe they have been studying us.

The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 1998

"Growing Up and Employment"

Inspiration Number Three is still in grade school, but already teachers are asking, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" Imagine how traumatic this is for any of the Inspirations. The Inspirations do not play the game many kids have have learned which is to say anything at all. Farmer, lawyer, accountant, politican... Kids say these things because they are perceived by the general public as "good" things to be, and if not good, profitable, and some you can be no good at and still make a profit... The Inspirations reply to this question with blank looks, mainly because I have told them they may not say things like, "cultural revolutionary." This would not play well in rural America, though it might not be an unexpected vocation for the Contemplator's children. When Inspiration One was in this same grade school I had a discussion with her about being the Devil's Advocate. She promptly went in to say I was the devil's lawyer. I suppose cultural revolutionary would be considered an improvement.

How can the Inspirations be expected to answer a question like "what do you want to be when you grow up?"when the Contemplator can't. I suppose by now I am considered grown up. I can argue successfully that I haven't grown up - no, not as a fact of maturity, thank you, but because the women in my family are very long lived. (My grandmother is 104.) We loose our minds in our eighties - earlier according to some - but we live a long time. However, by most standards - although I don't generally care about them - I am in midlife and should have decided what I want to be - in fact I should be it. Or I could be seeking a career change. At midlife it is acceptable for successful people to have a crisis and change carreers. No, my midlife crisis is evidently finding a career.

I decided I want a high paying, respected job that is emotionally rewarding. Child rearing fit the emotionally rewarding aspect most of the time when the Inspriations were small. Now two Inspirations are teenagers, so I don't get emotional rewards from them unless I'm giving them something... I have to buy "I love you" and it gets more expensive all the time.

Which returns me to a high paying, respected job - nevermind emotional rewards - I can buy those if I get paid enough. A powerful title - regardless of duties - will earn instant respect - even from the Inspirations, because then they can brag to their friends. It's even better if no one understand what the title means - that makes it all the more impressive. So I can make one of those up - one with acronyms is good. CE (Contemplator Extraordinary) fits the bill. OK, so it all boils down to a high paying job. Which, given the Contemplator's work history, realistically means any paying job.

In spite of the importance of material things to the population at large and to the Inspirations in particular, the Contemplator decided to give up pursuite of "high paying, respected and emotionally rewarding employment." These are good for class reunions, but I don't go to them - and if I did I could use my made up job title with acronym. These are also good for obituaries rather than personal satisfaction. I am going to live to be 104 and I will be able to make up any history I choose because there will be no one to verify any of it. I also couldn't find one. I realize some people work many years in pursuit of such a position but I got a late start so I gave up earlier.

No, the Contemplator is going back to school so she can be asked "what do you want to be when you grow up?" Thank you, I'll say, I've already grown up and I am a cultural revolutionary...

The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 1998

"Peace and Long Life"

I gave up the idea of peace about the time Inspiration Two reached the age of two and began asserting himself. This was usually in opposition to Inspiration One. Having Three Inspirations I doubt there will be peace until Inspirations One and Two have gone off to college, leaving one left. By that time, of course, I will have come to enjoy chaos. I suppose I already do - the only other option was insanity.

On the other hand, I have always assumed I would have a long life. The women of my line are long lived and I don't have too many risk factors that would lessen my biological tendency... I didn't think much about death except on rare occasions I boarded a plane. That was before I started to teach Inspiration One how to drive. I not only think about death a great deal, I am in close proximity to it regularly. I have no peace, no illusions of long life and my sanity is questionable (yes, more than before).

I try to have sympathy. I clearly recall running over a curb the first time my own mother took me on the road. I missed the telephone pole and I missed a fruit stand a few days later. My mother is still alive and sane. I don't remember my mother shouting, I don't remember her clinging to the door in terror. I have had a lot of self-defense training but my mother is braver than I am and has clearly always been so.

I try to remain calm. Sympathy is easier. My foot is constantly reaching for a non-existant brake. I am constantly reaching for the door handle and leaning away from the side of the car that is inches away from collision. Rationally I understand neither of these actions would do the least bit of good if she hit something, but at that point I am not calm, I am not rational. My brain left the minute she made her first right turn out of the development and went right into the LEFT lane. I thought I was fairly calm when I said something to the effect that it wasn't a ONE WAY STREET!

I try to be patient. This is difficult when, after turning left, regardless of the oncoming traffic (because she is worried about the person BEHIND her) she says she is a better driver than her friends. This is supposed to be a selling point? Then she asks if she can get her license. She has asked that every time she drives - every day since she got her learner's permit - regardless of how many near misses she had that day. I try to explain there is a correlation between better driving and licenses. It goes something like this, "No way in hell."

Inspiration One has improved. But that's not the major factor in why I am letting her get her license. I've decided I am not a good judge of whether or not she is ready. I have too many prejudices, having nearly been killed several times by her driving. I think someone who regularly drives with teenagers would be a better judge than I. I think someone calmer and more patient should judge her driving.

But the overriding reason I have decided to let Inspiration One get her license is so that I don't have to drive with her any more! No, the Contemplator may not be sympathetic, calm or peatient, but there is nothing wrong with her sanity.

The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 1998