We are crossing the make-shift bridge over a dried stream bed, Jeb and I. He’s had weekend fun with his dad and is now returning back home with me.
In his eight and a half-year old fingers, he clutches the full-color booklet that came with his latest Wii game. This three-dimensional, virtual reality fun is something reserved for Dad’s house. We don’t own a television and the only video game I’ve considered purchasing was Deepak Chopra’s Leela, hoping to pique Jeb’s interest while teaching meditation practices (which was about as effective as trying to disguise Brussel sprouts in a palatable sauce).
I’m a purist, opting for games with zero violence, while Jeb’s Dad is OK with some fighting. I’ve made peace with this to an extent, but this time the limits are stretched.
Jeb knows how I feel about violence and he’s exploring the terrain with me as we walk, explaining the new game.
“Yeah, so there are these guns and you’re shooting…but there is only a little bit of blood.”
The air between us thickens. He’s baiting, awaiting my reaction.
He’s never had a ‘killing game’ before and certainly nothing that showed blood. I look at the booklet in his hand. On the cover of “Conduit 2” is some robot figure with huge arms and a gun. I see the square in the bottom corner with a rating of ‘T’ for ‘Teen’.
“Jeb, that says it’s rated for Teens. You’re eight and a half…not even close to double digits yet.”
A few layers in, and I can also sense him quietly waiting. He’s counting on me to be the one with a conscience. It’s there, this sense within him, that he knows. He knows a violent video game is not the best choice. But he can’t help but have a little delight in the rebellion.
“It’s not that bad, Mom. Just some fighting…not too much blood. You’re just sensitive.”
In this moment, I make the choice not to explain what he has already heard. That for me, killing is not a game. And when people, especially children with developing bodies and minds, begin to ‘pretend’ to kill things in a virtual reality setting, the lines between real and pretend can be blurred.
Jeb’s looking down at the Conduit book in his hand, as the two of us walk up an incline, side by side. We’re quiet for a while and then approach his Dad’s pick up truck, where skateboards and helmets wait to be loaded into my car.
Jeb gathers the items in relaxed fashion, humming to himself.
“Vande Gurunam charanaravinde…”
It’s the ancient Sanskrit words we chant at the beginning of every yoga practice. Jeb’s heard it over the years, as whenever there’s a school holiday, he comes and sits in the back of the class while I practice.
He’s putting his backpack in the car, setting the Conduit booklet on the seat. “Sandarshita svatmasukavabodhe…”
These lines translate:
“I pray to the lotus feet of the supreme guru
who teaches knowledge awakening of the great happiness of the Self revealed”
Jeb doesn’t get all of the words exact and he mumbles them only half-consciously. But I hear it. It’s in there and spilling forth from his mouth. The little sponge that he is, leaking all that he’s been soaking up.
I try to find solace in the irony. Like somehow the chant falling from his tongue is an antidote for the gun game in his hand.
There’s no way to wrap up this moment in any kind of neat, little package. It encapsulates the truth that life is a messy swirl of overlap. Black and white won’t stay in their respective boxes.
I surrender and do my best to escort Jeb through the grey zone. All the while knowing, he’s like all of this planet’s little ones. Living and growing their lives in a precious, oh-so-tender, state of super-absorbancy.