Children and Choices
This is another of those essays based purely on my observations of life, not based on something LRH said. However, without the aid of LRH’s tech, I might never have been able to make these observations.
Because of circumstances beyond my control, I attended five elementary schools (for foreigners, an elementary school here is grades one through seven). As a result, every year or so, I had to make a whole new set of friends and adapt to a new school environment. Fortunately for me, all five schools were in the same city at least.
At one point in auditing, I was being asked questions about each successive grade I attended, starting from first grade. All went fine until we got to fifth grade. I could remember almost nothing about the grade at all. No teachers, no idea of the classes I was enrolled in, what I was taught, anything. I knew I had attended fifth grade, because I remember what school it was. Moreover, as a relatively bright kid with responsible parents, I knew my parents would have been interested in my schooling and I would have received stern punishment if my grades had dipped below a “B” (on an A – F scale). And yet I could not remember a thing about actually being in class. My auditor got his money’s worth out of his meter for these sessions. As he guided me, various pictures drifted in an out from the time period.
As it turns out, there were bullies in my fifth grade class. Apparently I was sufficiently intimidated by them that I didn’t want to be in their presence. My solution? Exteriorize and send the body to school, then interiorize on the way home. With the help of my auditor, I recalled the intersection where I typically exited the body each day and later re-entered it. Recalling this in session, I was stunned, since I had no idea I had been doing this at the time. It must have worked out okay, because I don’t recall my parents being upset with me at the time for bad grades or anything. I imagine, though, that it would have gotten pretty interesting if my parents had probed me carefully about what was going on in my classes.
As goofy or as wise a decision as it was to bug out and then bug back in every day, I had to admit that it was certainly an unusual choice.
The next year, I went to a different school. Again, I was a new kid in class. As you’ll probably recall from your school years, you often end up associating with a particular group of people in your classes, and virtually ignoring others. So it was with me. One of the kids I remember was Hal and his girlfriend, Ellen (their real names). Hal was a standout because he was a star athlete in both football and basketball. But what was most remarkable about Hal was that, at the tender age of 12, he was already having sex with Ellen. This was not a brag of his, the way it would be with most kids. Ellen was a fully developed young lady, if you catch my drift, and Hal had a habit of fondling her breasts in class, a habit Ellen encouraged. So when Hal alluded to having sex with her (and her agreeing it was true), we didn’t doubt it. Still, at 12, that was a pretty extraordinary thing to the rest of us.
But Hal was a sort of side light and not the focus of this story. One of his friends was Glen (also his real name). Glen was a hilarious character. He was always telling tales about the unusual people in his neighborhood. I remember he talked a lot about a guy named Benny, who apparently was addicted to animal crackers; you know, those cookies in the shape of circus animals that came in a box which looked like a circus animal cage. Glen was full of stories about people like Benny, and always told the stories in a way that made you laugh until you were crying. I admired Glen’s ability to come up with such funny stories (even if he was helped by the amusing and colorful characters in his neighborhood), and tell them in such a hilarious way. Needless to say, Glen was also a smart aleck, and one who, not surprisingly, didn’t make grades that were all that good. He was not known for his brilliance in class, let’s say.
Now, when I was a kid, I didn’t believe I had that much going for me. I didn’t have flaming good looks or extraordinary athletic ability. I didn’t have charm or charisma, as far as I knew. I was a shy kid, with one and only one thing going for me– I was a pretty bright kid. This point was emphasized frequently by my parents. They wanted me to do well in life, and my intelligence was the key to that, as far as they were concerned.
So here I was in sixth grade, marveling at Hal’s exploits and laughing at Glen’s. Being the “smart kid” in this little mini-group wouldn’t have gotten me much. I knew that instinctively. Intelligence wasn’t something they valued. In fact, it probably would have gotten me made fun of and teased a lot. So I mostly just listened and shut up. While I admired these kids, I knew I could never match Hal at anything he was good at. (And I wouldn’t have known what to do with a real girl if you put us alone together.) But it occurred to me that maybe I could try and approach Glen’s funniness. After all, in the five years of school before this, I’d never really stood out anywhere I’d gone. I was relatively shy and had mostly just done what the teachers had asked of me without being any sort of extraordinary student. Maybe I could have gotten straight “A”s, but if “B”s were good enough for my parents, they were good enough for me.
So I got it into my head that I wanted to be like Glen. I started cracking jokes in class. I made some fledgling steps at being the class clown, the way Glen was. Technically, I was taking on Glen’s beingness. After all, it appeared to be a winning beingness, at least among the people I was hanging around with. (Of course, knowing nothing about Scientology at the time, I couldn’t and wouldn’t know about this aspect of it until years later.)
This went on for a few days or weeks (not very long, as I recall). Then one day I was in the back of the classroom, looking up something in the dictionary, and it occurred to me that I shouldn’t have to look this thing up in the dictionary. I should have known this. And it seemed like in an earlier period, I would have known something like this (whatever it was) without having to look it up. I wondered what was going on. Somehow I’d gotten less bright. But how could that have happened?
And then it hit me. The enormity of it rocked me backward from where I sat on the floor with the dictionary in my lap. I had decided to be like Glen, and Glen was not particularly a bright kid. Funny, yes. Smart, no. And in trying to do what Glen did, I had taken on the beingness of Glen. Instantly I focused on my future and what it looked like for me, particularly if I continued along this path. It didn’t look that promising. And at that moment I decided that trying to be another Glen was a bad idea; in fact, a truly horrendous idea. And I remembered when I had made that choice.
Next it hit me, what a close call that was. I could have gone the whole rest of my life as some not-quite-bright smart alecky guy who could make people laugh but that was about it. All because of some casual decision I’d made in sixth grade and then forgotten about.
I’ve remembered the details of that period in my life vividly, just as I’ve relayed them to you. They struck me as profound at the time and still do. They made me realize that children are prone to making decisions like this without giving it a second thought. And as they go through life, these decisions influence who they are, where they go, what they think, and ultimately can have a profound influence on how successful they are in life, and in what areas. This incident also made me cautious from then on about adopting other beingnesses wholesale, without proper prior circumspection.
As a parent, I was also very conscious of the way my daughter approached things. You can never know about everything your kids think, but hopefully you can detect if something changes in the way they approach life. In my daughter’s case (she’s actually my step-daughter; she and I met for the first time when she was five), many of the decisions she made about life appear to have been made either this lifetime before I met her, or on earlier track. And some of her more unfortunate decisions were made at a time (high school) when she wouldn’t have told me the time of day if I’d asked her.
Fortunately, this caution about beingnesses helped me avoid certain people and groups. By the time I was in high school, people had largely segregated themselves into certain, definite cliques. I avoided the stoners. I avoided the jocks (by high school, I had developed a bit more athletic ability). I avoided the goat ropers (chewing tobacco and wearing cowboy hats and pointy boots every day? Really?). I wasn’t a drama or band geek (no interest really) or a ROTC nazi (pronounced “rotsee notsee”; ROTC is Reserve Officer Training Corps, which lines kids up to be in the military after high school). I ended up making friends in all kinds of groups, but not being part of those groups and not adopting their beingnesses.
As I aged through my teens and twenties, I lost a lot of my shyness. I developed more self-confidence, the ability to laugh at myself, and a modicum of charm. And a much better sense of humor. I also developed the ability to assume other beingnesses temporarily for the purpose of humor. (Oh, and I also figured out what to do with girls, fortunately.)
I’ve looked back on those times often over the years. It amazes me the kinds and magnitudes of decisions children make without giving them a second thought.