The other day, as is my wont, I was explaining Socrates to my daughters …”The Oracle at Delphi told Socrates friend that Socrates was the wisest man. So Socrates decided to try to prove the Oracle wrong. He went around and asked apparently wise people questions. But it turned out that when they answered him, they were confused about everything. Socrates was the wisest person because he knew that he didn’t know anything.”
Kathleen: “That makes no sense.”
Me: “Everyone else thought they knew things, but they were wrong. Socrates knew one thing, that he knew nothing. So he was right.”
Lucy: “It’s funny, because I only know one thing … It’s that Kathleen doesn’t know anything.”
Next, I really need to teach them only to use philosophy only for good and never for evil.
This weekend the girls had a friend over for a sleepover. Kathleen and their friend succeeded in staying up all night (Lucy crashed about 4AM). Mercifully, Jennifer and I slept through most of the night, but I do remember feeling vaguely aware at some point in the night that Kathleen put on her full Taekwondo uniform. Thinking it might have been a dream, I asked about it the next day. Sure enough, up on their own, the girls were convinced they heard an intruder in the house. So at about 2:00AM, Kathleen dressed herself to train the other girls and lead them into battle. I apparently woke up enough to see Kathleen across the hall in her uniform, shook my head, then rolled over and went back to sleep. That’s what we call #parenting
Lucy: “Do you believe in hell?”
Me: “Ummmm, wellll …”
Lucy [cutting me off]: “You are only allowed to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no.'”
Me: “But it’s more complicated than that. So, like, I don’t believe that there is a place under the earth …”
Lucy [cutting me off again]: “Then ‘No.’ Your answer is ‘No.'”
Me: “Well, but, I do think that Hell is being separated from God. So, Hell is when you turn away from God. … You know what that means?”
Me: “Hell is like eating ice cream with a fork.”
Tonight for our bedtime story we were covering the Epic of Gilgamesh, in which the goddess Ishtar punishes Gilgamesh for rejecting her. Lucy was confused by the idea of a spiteful goddess, so I had to explain that in many ancient religions the gods were not moral. This began the following exchange.
Lucy: “Oh, so their gods had feelings.”
Me: “Well Christians believe that God has feelings, but all of them are good feelings.”
Kathleen: “No, God gets angry sometimes.”
Me: “Yes there are stories where God gets angry, but what does God get angry about?”
Kathleen: “When people don’t believe in God.”
Me: “I actually think it would be hard to find a story where God gets mad just because people don’t believe in God. God gets mad because people turn away from God. And God is good, so turning away from God is turning away from goodness. God gets angry when we do evil.”
Kathleen: “Like What?”
Lucy: “Like when someone eats ice cream with a fork!”
From now on, if asked for the paradigm example of a sin, I am prepared.
Every night Lucy asks for a bedtime story. I have been running on empty for a while so I recently decided just to give her my world religion lectures. About a week ago I told her the story of the Buddha who overcame suffering by abandoning attachment to all things. Not being attached to anything, the Buddha feared nothing because no matter what was taken from the Buddha it was not something he was attached to.
This weekend Lucy was chatting online in a video game with a boy and she told him she had a crush on him. So Sunday night she was nervous about what was going to happen at school today. Drawing on some advice my mother gave me when I was young I told her to “prepare for the worst and hope for the best.” “What was the worst that could happen?” I asked. “He could tell everyone what I said and embarrass me,” she answered. “Ok,” I responded, “But if he is the kind of boy that would do that, then you can tell people honestly that you don’t like him. Because you wouldn’t like a boy who did that.”
To this my daughter responded: “I’m not the fricken Buddha, dad.”
I’m not sure if I should be proud of her for learning about Buddhism, or disappointed that she is so far from enlightenment.
Lucy has apparently been going through what she perceives as a significant growth spurt. Yesterday, as we were walking …
Lucy: “Do you ever look down and go like … woah …whoah.” [Lucy staggers back and forth like a person with vertigo.]
Me: “Not really.”
Lucy: “I’m growing really fast, and sometimes it just seems like the ground is a lot further away than it used to be.”
Lucy: “I’m just afraid of heights.”
Me: “Like the height of your head from the ground?”
I think I must have missed this stage in my own childhood.