It used to be the custom that Japanese parents gave young people who were about to be married a ‘pillow book’. This was a small volume of wood-block prints, showing all the details of sexual intercourse, a taboo subject. It spared parents the embarrassment of having to explain ‘the facts of life’ face-to-face.

Today we can get easy access to such information online or in a book store. The bottom line is that sex is no longer a taboo, like it used to be. And young people in their 20s usually know a lot more about sex than their parents do anyway.

But if sex is no longer the BIG taboo, what is? Surely there is always something taboo, something repressed, something unadmitted. What would be The Book that fathers and mothers might slip to their sons and daughters, without ever admitting it openly?

I reckon The Book would be called ‘The Alien From Inner Space’. This is a book that tells our children how we have forgotten who we really are – the real Big YOU – as we live and hide behind masks; as we don’t trust our instinct or intuition; as we blindly follow where all others go because we don’t have a sense of self, and what makes us unique and different.

This is, in my view, the BIG taboo today. The taboo against knowing and being who you really are. And, since it’s taboo, we never talk about it. “So, where do you live?” we ask the person we’ve just met at a dinner party. The real question would be “So, what do you live for?”, and yet we never go there. It just feels awkward. Unnatural. Pretentious perhaps. Taboo actually.

Slowly but surely, we become alienated from ourselves as we get nibbled to death by ducks and distracted by tiny [yet seemingly VERY important] sideshows. Such as looking good, looking successful, being popular, being busy, getting ahead, and not missing out on anything.

Suppose you did, for a moment, manage to find the confidence to take the road less travelled, everyone would have something to say about you. “Dude, you’re so alternative, weird, on-the-spectrum, radical, fanatical. ” And so, before long, you’ll start thinking and behaving like everyone else again because you just can’t bear being so different.

Jim Morrison said it like this:

The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.

Now Jim may have been messed up in some ways, and his flame did burn out at a young age. That was Jim. But the taboo against knowing and being who you are sure wasn’t one of Jim’s problems.

Like Jim, the book I pass on to my children – ‘The Alien From Inner Space’ – contains no sermons, no shoulds and no oughts. Instead, it reminds them to feel, encourages them to look inside (not outside), and prompts them to trust their own experiences (not a textbook) as the basis for living their lives.

Richard Sauerman
Richard Sauerman
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