When, about ten years ago, I made the decision to begin writing seriously again, the first project I undertook was a juvenile–a story I had imagined many years before and given up on.
I think the decision was tied to an example of foolishness which is worth re-considering: that it would be easier to write a juvenile–to break the ice before getting on to the harder stuff.
The common belief is that childhood is blessed by simplicity. Things were easier then. But this is quite false, of course. We all know that, if we know anything. But we want to believe it for reasons which are themselves complex.
Childhood is the most difficult period of a human life. There is more to learn in less time with fewer skills to use on the way.
A successful childhood is almost a guarantee of a happier adulthood. There is a reason why an adult revisits childhood memories so constantly no matter how many years have intervened. Those first sparks of knowledge become our stars.
And there is a reason why the sociopath has such difficulty with such thoughts. The despoiling of childhood is just as nearly a guarantee of an unhappy adult. Thousands of psychologists make a good living off those results.
Offer a Latin phrase to an average person in a key situation…Say, ‘Post hoc ergo propter hoc.’ Nine out of ten will stare blankly at you. This is what being a child is like. Uncomfortable. Should you know that? Perhaps embarrassing. Are you stupid for not knowing? And your next reaction is likely to be dismissive. Who cares about Latin, anyway? Just another dead language. Right?
Just as the language of childhood is dead to most adults. They are beyond it. They bury the discomforts and embarrassments. They have things in their place now. Don’t they?
Some parents take notice. They listen to their children and remember.
After this, therefore because of this. Post hoc ergo propter hoc. It is one of the most essential fallacies of a human life. Why do we assume such things? Because we were once children. It is the way we learned the order of things.
But if we were lucky and had parents or teachers who listened, we might have been opened to a world that made better sense and our childhood might have in fact been as simple as we wish is was.
This, by the way, is the best role for grandparents. They have suffered though childhood and youth and maturity. They have begun to notice, that just because some thing comes after another, the cause is not obvious. It’s not rocket science. It’s more like using our fingers to do brain surgery.
Were the psychological ‘issues’ of our lives caused by difficulties when we were young? Not exactly. More often they are made by ascribing the wrong cause to an effect, right from the start. Adults do it too. Especially adults with ‘issues.’
Religions, deeply catalogued in human experience, are often ready with explanations to difficulties we face. This is comforting. Importantly it separates the individual from a false assumption of a certain Latin phrase previously mentioned.
Religion may give a unique explanation or, as in the case of simpler things such as not eating swine or fish without scales, it might offer rules of conduct which avoid the need to work through cause and effect. The blessing of religion is the short cut. Do this. Don’t ask questions.
It appears politics has become the modern substitute religion as we have learned that we can indeed eat pork and catfish without dire consequence. But this too will not suit an enlightened mind or a truly modern sensibility, even if the conclusion is correct. We want to know why. At least, some of us want to know.
I don’t begrudge religious people their comforts. The short cuts often give them a much happier life–time free for other things. I am happy for them. I only hope they afford me the same courtesy. I am frankly happier in my misery. I get most of my pleasures from life by asking questions and seeking answers. It gives me something to write about, you know.
This is the nature of the stories I write. Most of the effort is a search for a cause to understand the effect. Sometimes–not commonly–a given problem is easily solved by an orderly arrangement of events–before and after. More commonly, flowers do not sting–bees do. A person is cold because the temperature is low and they failed to put on a coat even though their mother told them to a thousand times, not just because the temperature is low. A parent may have been neglectful, but the happiness of a child is not dependent solely on a parent.
So, I am re-writing my juvenile novel for the umpteenth time. Hopefully I’ll get it right this go. I know what happened. I just want to know why. The challenge of writing a juvenile story is to avoid assumption and look a little deeper. The adult knows more facts but is not necessarily smarter.
Stories for adults are far easier to write, after all. Children are less concerned by money and sex. And we all know that sex and money drive civilization. Don’t we?