We were always this way. I as me and you as you. And if you’re yet to return, you will get there eventually. I hope to make sense of this statement by telling you an anecdote which relates to the cyclical nature of my own kindred spirit.
I remember a moment, a small moment, a long time ago now in my childhood; I was around ten, I think. It was a Sunday afternoon and in the soft haze of the evening sunlight I plucked at the pages of my father’s casually discarded tabloid newspaper and stumbled upon a small tragic story, a few pages in. The article wrote of a young girl; a young adult, who had been kidnapped and killed at the hands of her family due to the defying of rules imposed by her religion and culture. I cannot remember the specifics of the article and nor do I want to delve into the morality of it now but I just remember this feeling of panic staying with me. I believe this was my first real experience of the aforementioned ‘cruel’ world and as a sensitive, naive soul, it shocked me to the core. Not that I had been wrapped in cotton wool or had had the perfect upbringing; far from it. But the walls of my so far wobbly but softly padded family fort came tumbling down. Here I was, being initiated into the darkness of human nature and of human failure and perhaps most poignantly; of human plight.
What was most upsetting at the time however, was the reaction of the adults around me. There went I shocked and inexperienced and frightened and running with tear-stained cheeks saying “look look, how can this happen? We have to do something! Why aren’t you doing something?” Hope faded fast as my parents, naturally, comforted me by quickly casting the story away as ‘another world’s problem, of good luck on our part and of bad luck on hers’. I took this comfort but found the notion unpalatable and difficult to accept, I stepped back wounded and beaten, not knowing how to forget this poor dead girl and others like her; if that’s really what I was supposed to do. I did my best at developing my own natural sense of…what word to use? Humanity? Whatever it was inside of me, and inside of children universally, proven only when exposed to let’s say, the plight of people such as my own ‘newspaper girl’. I began to make changes, I read more news, I asked more questions, I became vegetarian; in my own twelve-year old way, much to the hilarity of my family and friends who went on to regularly ridicule the notion. “If only she knew there was meat juice in the gravy!” They would jest.
As I got older and further into society’s ready and outstretched arms, the cynic in me grew and I quickly adopted this way of life, this way of coping with our own sense of guilt and of sweeping it under the rugs of our mighty ivory towers. Slowly I let go of the vegetarianism in favour of conformity and ease and began to face the plight of far-flung others with, of course, a fleeting sadness but a good dose of ‘keep calm and carry on’. All’s good here. What could I possibly do anyway?
Now, as an adult and primary teacher I see the incredible reaction of small children to a sad story, to news of the state of our planet or the reality of extinct animal breeds and those soon on their way out. I feel the empathy, it oozes from them, they always have a clear sense of justice, of peace, of love and of care. There is never one that disagrees. Why is it that as we grow we lose that simple unwavering kindred kindness? Sometimes for only a short rebellious teenage spell, sometimes for longer. Some find it and lose it again. Some even manage to hang onto it unwavering and practice it stoically for life, in favour of mass societal conformity.
In my late twenties and after a huge shift in the path of my life I feel that I am finally within metaphorical grasp of my kindred spirit. I feel closer to my twelve year-old self now, than ever and am beginning to think that they might even agree. It’s not here fully, the cycle hasn’t fully completed its revolution but it will come. One massive element missing? Bravery. Kids are unequivocally brave. For us adults in first-world bliss, this transcends into brave and conscious choices, a lifestyle not a fad.
I believe we can all find that childhood-self again, look for it in your life and measure yourself against it.
How much of ‘you’ is driven by the society that you are immersed in? With the cyclical nature of the kindred spirit it can and will come back to you, if you want it to.
A question to ask yourself when making your next ethical decision; what would your kindred spirit do?
Thanks for reading, please do share your thoughts!