Our Fathers' Sons

Discipline is spoken of with great reverence.  We champion those with it, lampoon those without it, and  speak of it as a holy virtue. No credit or blame is in order. I believe we are set into motion by our teachers (e.g. priests, mothers, coaches, older brothers, etc). Personally, I am the man my father set out to build. Sons are statues that father's erect; monuments to their values. They chiseled and polished, sculpted and molded. If discipline is a virtue, we have our fathers to blame.  If it's vice, we have our fathers to blame. It is a gift of their time and values that become so deeply embedded that we can't tell them apart from ourselves.

I'm a small racehorse; my father bred me.  Am I good with money because I have an innate sense of budgeting and careful control over my spending habits? Or is the culprit a father who opened a checking account for his ten-year-old son? I was writing checks and learning cursive at the same time. There's no good student gene. There is, however, a man who stayed up every night was reading to his son and teaching him long division. Work hard. Fix things yourself. Take responsibility. Do what you love. Train your dog. The list is endless -- or about eighteen years long. Grooming and coaching. That little boy was ridden until he crossed the finish line. Taught never just to cross, but to cross first. If our horse is a winner, we shake the trainer's hand, not the horse's. All the horse did was run. When the horse is released into the wild, it carries with it a lifetime of being bred. 

I don't understand the traditional conception of discipline. It would imply that, given a particular situation, one has special powers to override a strong temptation.  Why don't I eat the cookie? It is not because of some superhuman strength of character. The desire to be physically attractive trumps all inclinations of my palette. That is all. There's no deliberation. No hemming and hawing. No volitional decision-making. I want one thing more. I do that thing.

Why I want that particular thing has almost nothing to do with self-control. It is simply our inherited values marching like soldiers. When they plunder and take the hill, they do so at the whim of their commanding officer. They are let loose into the world. They only go where they're told. To praise or criticize someone for their so-called discipline is to call attention to the wants and desires of the men and women who trained them. The extent to which they can re-enter the world from a new point of view is a mystery to me. Perhaps they will strike out new paths and storm new castles. Perhaps they will always be their father's sons.             

1 comment :

  1. Good job Nick, This was very well-written.
    I enjoyed it.
    Better and better..