Dr. Livingston in my living room, I presume

An article in Sunday’s New York Times, “Families’ Every Fuss Archived and Analyzed,” looked at comprehensive research being done on middle class American (Angeleno, to be precise) families.  After hours of tape (in the school of the 1970’s PBS documentary on the Loud family more than the lurid sensationalism of “reality” TV) where families were meticulously filmed and documented for a solid week, researchers are now sharing some initial observations and drawing some preliminary conclusions.

Although I find nobility, sincerity and great humanity in this research and this article, as parents I can hardly imagine anything striking any other parent as “news.”  The study was all about dual earner families with children, and, surprise, moms do more of the domestic work.  Still, dads spend significant time with children, but spouses are together and awake less than ten percent of the time.  Moms experience stress levels drop if their partners take an interest in their day.  Dads decompress more slowly.

The big takeaway:  Overall—parenting is quite stressful.  Stop the presses!

Okay, snarkiness aside (it’s a bit hard to help that sometimes), if we take a bit of a quantum view of this article and this research—the notion that there is no objective observer, but rather a unified field in which every observer, of course, participates, perhaps one of the article’s key observations (that no one in the family goes outside to the yard, to nature, to the least cluttered area) could be seen as a wider observation about ourselves.

Thus we are all anthropologists to a degree and at the same time we are the natives being studied. In “not going outside” we both fail to connect with nature (i.e. the fact that our true nature is completely interconnected, and thus each parent’s stress is our collective stress, each battle is our battle to find harmony, love, mutuality). Beyond nature, this can also reflect how we humans seem not to “go outside” of our ego-selves, of our houses of often alienated so-called individuality.

The article ends with a father and child finally getting out the door and into the world—the very world that includes this blog and all of each other—this world, virtual and “real,” where we run into each other.  Perhaps it’s time to stop “studying,” stop endlessly getting ready for something that never arrives, and awaken to the truly collective nature of our situation as it stands (stressed and inside) and allow how it yearns to be (calm and somehow nourishingly inter-connected).

I feel that in our blogging community we seem to generally grasp this, and so it seems a pleasure to support each other to show up in this world and touch base, but to also trust that we’re together in spirit when we’re in our gardens, at the market (somehow trusting that those in the real world who we don’t quite, or so easily, trust as being “our people” are in fact better understood as that “other” part of ourselves).

The researchers (and we readers) end up looking into a mirror of their/our own human condition.  Perhaps it is consciousness that is changing more than parenting or divisions of labor.  Perhaps we Virtual Salon denizens are excited about what we’re up to because it stands as the very cure for the illness or despair evident in the “scientific” approach to our human condition.

A next step might be, today, in consciously recognizing our simple needs for love, connection and compassion—in realizing that every family, and every observer, is but an aspect of an expanded sense of Self.  I am aware that this may sound a bit ridiculous to those who never visit the Virtual Salon, but it’s hard even for them to argue with the fact that the vast majority of families would love to feel more supported, loved, understood and calmer.

Whatever is actually wrong with a picture of stressed families suffering much more than they are enjoying being alive, where people are blessed to have access to a yard, but never enter it (which reminds me of Seligman’s research on “learned helplessness,” where once taught that there is no escape, rats will hunker down on an electrified grid and just take misery, even though two steps over is a non-electrified floor) is a picture of precisely what is currently and collectively missing for us humans:  wider consciousness of our inter-connetedness (and the comfort and nourishment that this brings, much as we here are learning as we taste of it).

Somehow sharing our ineffable experience is what I mean by carrying the fruits of our good fortune out into a wider world, bringing Martin Buber’s essential deed (i.e. relating, seeing to the soul of the other, even if they cannot see to the soul of us, much less of themselves).  My hunch is that so long as we join together, not in words necessarily, but in spirit, in the service of our collective children, then our own happiness will keep sneaking up on us and continue growing stronger in its own bittersweet but utterly alive manner, perhaps even rippling out as an unseen tide that gently carries families into the neglected paradise of their own back yards.

Namaste, Bruce


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2 Responses to “Dr. Livingston in my living room, I presume”

  1. rebecca Says:

    You make a connection that struck me: getting outside (the place with rocks and trees and grass) and getting outside of ourselves. This was profound for me. I believe in this. Every time I take a walk I’m able to do this a little bit better.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      In a way it’s ironic, Rebecca, that we meet in the virtual world to agree that nature is often where it’s really at (the simple walk around our own neighborhoods), and at the same time it’s perfect to chat virtually as a WAY to get beyond our individual selves and affirm that we are part of something more.

      Top of the morning to you, in this Virtual “Our Town” (a walk on the streets after a night in the Virtual Salon?).


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