What Will The Neighbors Think

We were a family with six rowdy, rambunctious kids.  For the longest time, we were a no TV household; we entertained ourselves in the evenings.  Our preferred games built anticipation of wildly exaggerated but thrilling kid-horrors.

Ambushes, frights, and being chased by a sibling, who at that moment represented all the terrors of the night, ensured we were flushed, wild-eyed, and fully hyped by bedtime. The nightmares we conjured as entertainment became real enough for our Mother as she attempted to quiet six uncooperative ratcheted kids and settle each in bed.

When the noise level threatened to lift off the roof, our Mother would throw open the door she had shuttered behind and yell at us to “BE QUIET” then she would add the line we came to despise. “What will the neighbors think?”.

In Mom’s defense, on many evenings, it sounded like a massacre was taking place.  Yet we came to resent the neighbors deeply – “they” spoiled our fun.  We perceived, in the way children do, that they were judging us. The neighbors became the focus of all our kid grudges against the world.  They of course, knew nothing of this, and the daily file of sullen, scowling school-bound children must have been a fount of some wonderment to them.  

“What will the neighbors think’?  Was so overused by our Mother we eventually cared not a whit what the neighbors thought.  We became emboldened to do what we wanted, even in (especially in) the teeth of others’ clear disapproval. 

I have since met many talented, capable people who are so in thrall of their version of what the “neighbors” might think they will not take the risk to be fully themselves. They are tiptoeing through life – a collection of performed duties and an endless round of people appeasing.  Taking the least frowned upon path to the sanctuary of the grave.  I have often wished I could reach in and flick the to-heck-with-the-neighbors switch and free them to be fully, gloriously, messily themselves, but I digress.

One of the larger questions ever asked cuts to the chase – who is my neighbor?

We are discovering the impending climate nightmare scenario is not kid-stuff, but global in scope, and devastating in scale.  We are all in a single atmosphere together, we are not climatically independent, there are no boundary fences, to separate our fates, no sheltering hedges.   On the planetary scale Earth it turns out is just one home, humanity one family.

We thought knowledge and technology might prove us separate and above interdependence – extinction of vitality on our lush raft in space could be the high price of our conceit.  What we each do from here on in percusses everyone else. Loving and looking out for our neighbors is loving and looking out for yourself  – this can’t be separated either.

Maybe if other planets are inhabited, they consider us neighbors.  Watching what we are doing to our beautiful world must be a wonderment to them.  If we do not collectively turn this around, Mother Earth might well enquire of us – what must the neighbors be thinking?