open childhood:

a live ethics mainstay, an “education instinct,” even a law (at least “exerting a consensus force of a written law”); for a parent, a “deep sleep rehearsal” — an opportunity to retrace, rethink, re-understand and re-explain the world from axioms up, without self-abandonment, by proxy of someone you love: teaching by learning together, feedback-looping on a young minds curiosity; phenomenologically, a stably reproducing social institution of recent ascendance but with deep historic roots. The point is simply not choosing for those as yet unable to choose for themselves: open childhood affirms it a parental responsibility to go with your child even where you wouldnt go yourself, experience together as many as different environments, lores, lives as may be practical, play not your games and tell not your stories — not unjudgingly but without prejudgement; throughout the formative years, your child — a newborn or a deep sleep waker — is essentially a public figure.  ■    Cultures have always competed for access to young minds; a distinction of our sparsened age is how comparatively uncontroversial its open childhood is: “takes more of a conscious effort” to fend off the stream than to let it carry you. No one legislates on how much diversity is enough, but the memories are fresh of when it was a major fighting ground — “homeschooling,” “indoctrination,” “family hell” — so the (self-)enforcement drive remains live and conflictogenic. ■    Unlike the era of sparsening anxiety — when kids were the proverbial buttons on the back for chasers of evaporating unity — todays open childhood works by pull more than push: you are expected to make “your kind of interesting” accessible to unfolding minds, to be around for them to explore; best teaching works by diffusion, in routine contact and spontaneous play. Opening a child to the world starts by being open yourself: unable or unwilling to engage a five-year-old with what you are doing? maybe its not worth doing then. ■    Wherever you are later in life, your childhood is your valued store of not-from-hereness — of “meaningfully other” perspectives internalized in the impressible age. Like cross-breeding, a “diversity shot” in infancy curbs social granularization, improves long-term outlook of a species no longer driven by physical survival; perhaps stirring is the real duty of “adults of the world” — not just with teachable youth but (“were all children”) with everyone, even everything: “art into the void” which is always listening. Or, its a barely tenable self-delusion because learning the world is only as useful as your definition of world — and many, arguably, only parade their offspring around their natal lands but blindspot, with complacent superficiality, the “true abroad.”  ■    Maturation travel comes natural to Minds — most keep filtering through Knowledge as long as alive; youngsters tend to be socially mobile, older ones are more attracted to windows and data agglomerations “where the world travels through you.” In human families, especially newlyweds from archetypal fandoms, having a child often comes as an impulse to leave (which causes which is debatable) — an itch to break off of the mothership (culture, community, collective), “to spend our best years as welcomed guests” traveling and visiting in what feels like a return to the Road. Emigration isnt final — grown-ups rejoin their parents' breeding grounds oftener than chance; a familys past life looms large to the kids: it is their family jewel, a very own “warmal inwork,” the inner lore of fireplace talks and bedside tales. Ungrounded families — gestated inter socia without a community substrate — lack “natal philopatry” but, paradoxically, may be less prone to the “childhood disquiet” (i.e. dont travel more with children than without). The flying home — combining the safety of the nest with the kaleidoscopic itinerancy of life — “was worth inventing if only for kids”; the stratum of vagrant “sky families” is richly networked, infused with kinship, sharing, child-centric socialization — festivities, exchanges, challenges: “jealously familial, open childhood makes fun of those historic utopias that argued for communalizing the young.”  ■    The third pillar of early education — after the traveling family and in-life apprenticeships leading up into the Road — is circles, classes by volunteer educators. It often begins spontaneously — “grows out of evening gatherings by the fireplace” when silence sets in and, look, “its not only your kids listening with glowing eyes”; most circles dry up after a few meetings but some mature, outgrow scopes, go on for years — or until the founders kids grow up; select few get so big as to rearchitecture multiple lives, survive a succession of teachers, influence, respawn. “School countries” — diffuse “pre-Road universities” — are where dedicated circlers settle for communal support and shared infrastructure (from languages to flags). ■    A familys travels often start at the childs pre-birth endowments — works, connections, “libraries to imbibe” gathered by relatives or the waker himself in a past life; theres always self-overlap across deep sleep divisions: so tempting to dwell on your hard-won past triumphs and exclude the especially “not your” areas. The original notion of deep sleep as a perfect lifebreak has backslid: humans increasingly arrange to be raised in or near their native cultures — “rejuvenate without reinventing.”  ■    A fertile ground for conflicts is in monolithic fandoms and relife groups that recreate — more often than fork — a well-worked realm to raise their youth under a strict historic (“at least aesthetic”) censorship. Open childhood pressures — in- and inter-community — may produce compromises or “easter eggs” planted for the next generation: yes, the kids will go to a one-room rural school, but the in-game encyclopedia on the schools bookshelf will have articles quietly yet unequivocally assuming the Big World. Still, aside from the Message (a last resort) there is no universal rescue hatch, if only because the world it would lead to is not itself uniform or monolithic; instead theres a prolific “unfantasy” culture of creating doors-in-a-wall that lure into the open from all kinds of self-inflicted dead ends: “in this age of dispersement, arts calling is to be a guide across worlds.” Exposed cases of insistent or violent lock-in become honeypots for volunteer rescuers — Peter Pans of all ages; however controversial (hurt if you do, cripple if you dont), the self-righteous “free the children” — only inflamed by the defenses — tends to prevail.

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