Wasted On Children: Keeping Babylon At Bay

Aug 5, 2016

If you let them, children will eat nothing but bread. If you let them, children will do nothing but watch movies. Children are much work, but children can coast for days. You can always cut corners with children. The children coast so the father can get something done. Work is finished while children coast.

You don’t have to buy children Ghiradelli, because Hershey’s will do. Keep the Ghiradelli for yourself, who understand it. You don’t have to buy them Comte de Gruyere, because American will do. You don’t have to play with them, because television will do. You don’t have to dress them nice, because garish sweats will do. You do not have to teach them books, playing hangman will do. You do not have to give them gifts, for well wishes will do. Children do not know what good things they are owed, and besides, children lack good taste, and so most of the good things are “too good” for them. When they are older, they will get the good things. Then they will understand.

And who will give them the good things when they are older?

Children grow up, they leave their homes and their schools, and they go to Babylon and they see the Babylonian goods and hear the Babylonian offers. If the Babylonians listen more often than they talk… If the Babylonian goods are better than they need to be… If the Babylonian offers are generous… Then the children will get the good things and the Babylonians will give the children those good things. The Babylonians do not cut corners. The Babylonians are always young, and they have a prodigious budget, and there are no clocks in Babylon. The Babylonians stay up late, hearing and nodding. And when the Babylonians begin asking questions, they want to know about the children’s former lives. The Babylonians ask, “You’ve never seen…?” They ask, “You’ve never tasted…?” And the children of the cut-corner mothers say, “No,” and the children appear bewildered, for they know their mothers loved them. The Babylonians say, “Taste and see that we are good,” and the children taste.

What does the taste do to them?

The taste does for them what the taste did for the Queen of Sheba when she saw “all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made…” In a word, the taste of the Babylonians overwhelms the children. They have not known this word, this feeling before. They have known hangman, they have known Hershey’s, they have known television… and not once did it overwhelm them. They have known brash books published last week. They have known easy things. The cut-corner things clipped the golden buds from the tips of their tongues, and so they never learned to love anything better than brass. They have known things that were not “too good” for them, for the “too good” things were for the adults, in quantity. Nothing was ever wasted on these children. No one lavished the overwhelming ideas, the overwhelming foods, the overwhelming desires and wants over them.

The more you love a child, the harder you make it for the Babylonians to love them later. The more you lavish on a child, the more the Babylonians will have to lavish on them later— and the Babylonians are, in truth, really not willing to lavish a whole lot. They will nab the starvelings and the just-better-than-starvelings, but not the fat ones in their Sunday best. The will nab the cut-corner-kids, but not the frills and lace and fancy French jam kids. This has nothing to do with money, and only to do with sacrificed pennies, hours. What we give our children is not chocolate, not books, not knowledge, but want. In the chocolate, a child learns what to want. In the chocolate, the child learns who wants him. In the manner the chocolate is given, the child learns who to trust. The more loved the child, the higher the city walls of his soul. The more loved the child, the faster and heavier the draw-bridge of his spirit. While the child’s tongue cannot discern the “too good” things, what the tongue receives in ignorance the soul receives with perfect lucidity. The Babylonians run from a fat soul. 

Joshua Gibbs

Joshua Gibbs

Joshua Gibbs teaches great books to high school students at Veritas School in Richmond, Virginia. He is the editor of FilmFisher and has two daughters, both of whom have seven names. You can find him on Twitter @joshgibbs.