Atoms can not be trusted, suggests one of my favorite Dad Jokes. Because they make up everything.
Atoms also make up the smallest units of matter—overlooking “quarks” which are both harder to spell and more difficult to wrap my head around—up, down, charm? Give me a break. Democritus came up with the word “atoma,” Greek for “uncuttable.” Democritus’s guess, that atoms are the fundamental building blocks of all matter, has been called “the best guess in antiquity” because he too was making stuff up, had no idea what the next 2500 years of inquiry would bring to our understanding of miniscule.
A family with kids is the smallest unit in humanity, again ignoring couples and the beloved family canine. A running group is the second smallest entity, but a bunch of high school students working on producing a yearbook is right up there. To ensure that our kids do not obtain a membership in the Pot Smokers Club, let’s consider what makes these other groups of Homo sapiens so enticing.
Why would a person with only mild cognitive impairments show up at 5:45 on a Tuesday morning to run in circles? Fitness and the fear of impending mortality might be decisive, but the rousing course of “nice to see you” and “looking good” are surely also factors. No one shouts “run faster!” or “there’s a tortoise spitting on your back leg!” And of course we frequently go scarf down some carbs after the workout. It’s a nice group of supportive friends. Surely some of us are faster or slower than others. No one cares. The pervasive phrases are “nice lap!” and “way to go!”
The Yearbook staff also has shared purpose, a goal, camaraderie. Otherwise even the prospect of “getting into a good college” would hardly motivate students to sell ads or edit layouts until the wee hours. What a lot of satisfying work and a product to be proud of for decades. Similarly, there’s no “I” in “team” nor is there any point in putting up with all those sweaty practices unless players have friends and common objectives. Sure celebrating shared victories is more fun than the alternative. But every athlete knows that friendship and joint vision is critical to success.
Whereas the Pot Smokers Consortium has a low bar of entry. Easy to schedule, no hard work required. Any adolescent who can buy, sell, or smoke pot is welcome to attend. Meeting times are before, during, and after school. Come as you are. No ongoing commitment necessary. Everything—including a brain that might come in handy for thinking linearly later in life—is optional.
Your family is in direct competition with the Pot Smokers Association. And the Pot Smokers Confederacy for all its lethargy is ubiquitous and relentless. It’s the seventh game of the playoffs. Every single day. Your family versus the Pot Smokers Consortium. Fourth and goal, no time left on the clock.
Paul Newman was asked why he didn’t have extramarital affairs. Surely one of the most attractive men in Hollywood would have had the opportunity to sleep around on Joanne Woodward. “Why would I go out for hamburger,” Newman explained, “when I have steak at home.”
So that’s the challenge. Life at home has to be more appealing than hanging out with the Pot Smokers Confederation. Note that family life doesn’t have to be ice cream for breakfast and no homework. Su casa can revolve around the age-appropriate equivalent of brutal track workouts at oh dark hundred. But the emphasis on community can hardly be overstated. We are a family. We cook and clean together; we share values, books, and conversation. We stand up for one another. We are united and indivisible.
Do you think that even two and a half millennia in the future, anyone is likely to have improved on this formulation?