Recently, Trevor Beattie decided Creative Circle should honour the late Ron Collins.
He even arranged a table for Ron’s family and friends.
I was sitting between Ron’s son, Damon, and Damon’s daughter, Gigi.
She is a beautiful little girl, bubbly, full of beans and very inquisitive.
Half way through dinner she said to me “You are the slowest eater I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen anyone eat as slowly as you.”
No one had said this to me before.
It made me think.
Then I said to her “That’s the good thing about being a grownup: no one can tell you what to do. You can do whatever you want.”
Gigi went quiet for a bit.
This was a new thought.
She said “What no one? You do can anything?”
I said “Yup, I can eat as slow as I want. I can eat whatever I want. I don’t even have to eat any vegetables at all if I don’t want to. That’s what’s great about being a grownup.”
And I could see a whole new world of possibility opening up inside Gigi’s head.
Suddenly being a grownup looked really attractive.
And of course, in some ways it is.
But that’s only half the story.
When we’re little our mums and dads tell us exactly what to do.
And, as long as we do exactly what we’re told, we can’t get blamed.
Even if it goes wrong, it’s not our fault.
We did what we were told, so we’re not to blame.
And that’s a very comforting feeling.
We like that part.
The part we don’t like is the other side of that.
Being told what we can and can’t do.
So, as we grow, we begin to ignore that part.
We begin to do the things we want.
And that feels great.
Until it goes wrong.
And then we have to take the blame.
And that doesn’t feel so good.
No one told us that blame was the other side of freedom.
Blame, or what grownups call responsibility.
We assumed freedom was just the good stuff.
We didn’t know there was a down side.
That if we took the freedom, we also took the responsibility.
In fact some of us go our whole lives without learning that.
Learning that total freedom includes total responsibility.
You can do what you want, but you have to carry the can for it.
Think of it as living in a cage.
The cage keeps us from being free, but it also keeps us from harm.
We can’t wait to get rid of the cage and remove the restriction, but we also remove the protection.
More exciting when it goes right.
More painful when it goes wrong.
So a lot of us try to avoid the pain of blame (responsibility for our actions) by not exercising our freedom.
And then moaning that we’re not free to do what we want.
When what we actually mean is we’re not free to do what we want without taking the consequences.
But the truth is, either way we still take the consequences.
And we don’t like that much either.
But we can’t avoid it, being alive is about consequences.
Even if we do nothing we still take the consequences of doing nothing.
We take the consequences of our life however we choose to lead it.
Doing something or doing nothing.
There’s no way out.
That’s what being alive is.
That’s what Sartre meant when he said “We are condemned to be free.”
That’s what existentialism is all about.
But I didn’t tell Gigi that bit.
She’s only a little girl.