I recently read a New York Times review of 63 Up, the latest in the Up series that started following fourteen 7-year olds growing up in Britain back in 1964 and checked back in with a new film every seven years. I remember watching an episode of this in a psychology class in college and finding it mildly interesting. But exploring it now, it certainly resonates more, as I now have a 7-year old, and am 42 years old. If I were being filmed in the 35 Up episode I would have looked lost, exhausted, and exhilarated with my tiny 6-month old, Ayhan, in my arms. Now, seven years later, I have a talkative son, who is ready to be on the program himself.
Watching the films, I wonder how much of my son’s personality is already set (as the old saying of “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will give you the man,” goes). Ayhan is bright and reading the world news (one kid in the Up series was checking stock prices at 7!). He took easily to swimming but is intimidated by heights. He hates slimy foods but readily eats a diverse array of dishes. And he has learned to have a short temper (modeled unfortunately by both my wife and me—a subject of a future post, indeed). Are these traits now permanent? There is great diversity in human development, but the film certainly demonstrates that early upbringing matters. Have I put him on the right track? Both to be happy and particularly to live up to our collective grand goal of using our life energy to help heal Gaia?
And, in the context of the dramatic societal shift that he’s living through, how does growing up even play out? If my son dreams of going to “Trinity Hall, Cambridge,” as Andrew did in Seven Up!, can he do it? Will access to university education (let alone flying) be greatly curtailed in the contraction ahead?
Will his current ambition of being an engineer, metro driver, and mayor (or whatever he truly settles on) be possible? Or will he instead be eking out an existence in whatever way he can, while trying to stay human in an increasingly inhuman reality?
And ultimately does it even matter? We roll with life’s punches (or we don’t—though hopefully upbringing, at the very least, can play a role in increasing psychological resilience). But time is without feeling. The disasters will add up and completely reorient reality, opportunities, and expectations, whether we want this to happen or not. Ayhan may be angry with his lot—but so should the millions born into failed and war-torn states today. Hopefully, he’ll simply roll up his sleeves and work to make the world—or at least his little corner—just a bit better, helping to heal nature and those struggling around him, buoyed by an understanding that he is part of a larger Gaian whole, as well as part of a supportive Gaian community.