A man getting old, I'm told, tends to reflect on his past. That sounds true and
when I look back, I couldn't help comparing my childhood with Tim's. They are so
different that it would appear that the backdrops dictate the shows. And yet,
father and son do seem to share some traits in handling the world.
It just happened that I was born when the wars, famines, disastrous follies, and
worst of political turmoils were taking a breather. My family was not rich and
the memory of hardship would stay but a giant wave of prosperity was taking
shape and to sweep us up over the next 30 years. We were like surfers boarding
on a tide. It was dumb luck.
A few decades later and on the east coast of the Pacific, Tim lives in a bubble.
So far, he has never had a street fight or even walked by himself to school.
Clothes are bought and meals are cooked for him and both parents are attentive.
Poverty and turbulence of the outside reach him only through the Web. In terms
of antifragility, it has been a disaster.
By no means is his life easy, however, with a paranoid tiger mom and a whimsical
and often obsessive dad on the watch. He works hard to excel in Chinese, math,
and music; mom is constantly at it. Dad keeps pestering him about diet, body
weight, and physical exercises. Tim's still a boy and it is the desire to please
us parents that makes him tick. My own middle- and high-school experience can
testify to that great force.
It still amazes me that, except for a few minor incidents (calling Thomas
Jefferson a hobo in a fourth grade class for one), Tim has followed the script
made up by adults uncomplainingly and played the game well. Since remote
learning, teachers and schoolmates have urged him to go out and socialize more
but he has insisted that he's been content and never felt lonely. One Sat,
listening to the car radio where a teenager was mind-controlled by his idol, the
basketball coach, I asked Tim: "Have you ever worshipped anyone that much?"
The answer was a no so indifferent that it sounded arrogant. Was he egotistic as
I was at that age, too?
When Jesus was asked whether a Jew should pay Roman taxes, he replied: "Render
unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's."
Tim has to perform what the world expects and he will spend a good chunk
of his life trying to fill the orders. Meanwhile, the fire stays alive. There will be a
time that he sees through things and becomes his own man regardless of what
others, including his parents, say.