“He will not go beyond his father’s saying…” (Robert Frost, “Birches”)

“He will not go beyond his father’s saying, and he likes having thought of it so well he says again: ‘Good fences make good neighbors.'”

For most of my life, the only wisdom I knew was the wisdom that rolled around in my head, unconscious, all the time. This was the “wisdom” I’d been given by those who came before me, primarily my parents. Some of the wisdom they bequeathed to me was even deeper than the unconscious phrases that guided my life; some of the wisdom was truth that was unspoken, truth that shaped my view of the world. For example, I learned that the world was a big, scary place, and that my place in the world world was very small and without power.

“Oh Lord, thy sea is so big and my ship is so small, have mercy!”

I learned also that no matter how good I was, my own voice was not important, not as important as the voices of others, more powerful, more privileged.

My parents were good, decent, hard-working working class people who loved me. My parents wanted me to have an education, something they did not have. My parents wanted me to be successful. Still – I learned other, deeper things in their home, in their energy, in their presence.

As I get older, I find that I’m not as clear as I was in my earlier years about it being my parents fault for my own unconscious voices. I know my parents did the best they could, gave the best they could, and that they were proud of me. And so I accept them, as they were, and as they are, in my memory, in my cells, in my soul. Still, I wonder if another child would have grown up as I did, taken their first steps into the world, and be plagued with other demons than I have/had?

Some of the truths I took for granted during much of my adult life are changing. Although I like to think I’m right, I know that others are just as right – in their politics, for example. The great moral balance of right/wrong, good/bad, righteous/evil isn’t as clear to me as it was. A judging “God” who places some on the left side and some on the right side of judgment doesn’t make sense to me, if it ever did.

I love my parents, and my memory of them. I love the deeper ways we will always be connected, perhaps the ways we have been connected forever. But I no longer have to live out of their own view of the world, as I did when I was younger. I can move “beyond his father’s saying,” and come up with my own sayings.

For me, growing up means questioning even the most precious values I was given as a child. So many “adults” in the world – even powerful, visible “adults” – have not done that. For me, growing up means questioning all the little rules and guidelines I was given to make my way in the world – the rules and guidelines of my culture, religion, education, morality, sex, social standing, and beyond.

What does “growing up” mean for you?

2 thoughts on ““He will not go beyond his father’s saying…” (Robert Frost, “Birches”)”

  1. I am delighted you seem to be taking our ongoing “conversation” (over about 20 years now) out to the public! Will look forward to all of your blog posts and am happy that so many people that do not know you yet, will come to know you and have access to the wisdom you bring, after a lifetime in the “salt mines” spent seeking it – and finding it through extraordinary means. Congratulations!


  2. Hello, Mary Elyn, I finally got rid of the adware pestilence. This is a lovely site. I never think of what it means to be an adult–I probably should. I try, instead, to preserve the unique point of view of childhood, the “inner child” if you will. But then I think I frustrate those near and dear to me with this.


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