Last night my youngest daughter, who is the brainiest Bowen yet born, came to me agonizing over the meaning of war. This conversation, which very often brought her 10 year old eyes to redness and tears as she explained her dilemma multiple different ways, has confirmed something that I had always sensed but never quite understood about my daughter. She's deep. In everything about her life, she has won, not often with style but with ease. But she's so accustomed to making it look easy that I could never guess anything she might be passionate about. It turns out that they are the central questions of humanity.
She has come to me before with questions about the size of God and the size of the Universe, puzzling out which might have come first. So I knew that she was philosophical - not in the cute way that kids often are you've seen the emails, but in a freshman dorm bull session kind of way. Totally serious and thoughtfully curious with understanding about the implications.
Last night was a real blowup.
In context (maybe), she's running for student body president, and I suspect that she is finding something out about bad leadership by the way she is forming her questions. What she doesn't quite grasp is the conflict of belief systems and how people go from disbelief to disrespect. Her tears were for the intransigent minority who sacrifice their lives against the majority. She doesn't understand why protest metastasizes into violence, which she sees as pointless. She also wouldn't readily acquiesce to the necessity of force even for the sake of good.
I very consciously tried to stay away from the term 'evil', and at one time I tried to use the movie Pocahantas as a backdrop. But she kept coming up with examples of her own as she attempted to exemplify the main thrust of her problem. I keep hearing her weep as she said, I just don't understand why people think they can just take things that don't belong to them. And she also tearfully lamented why people don't compromise. Why they would come into somebody else's house and disobey the house rules when they don't even own the house?
I asked her if somebody came into our house and killed me, would she want to get revenge? She said not enough to kill them back. I expected to take the argument over towards the sentiments of orphans - saying orphans wouldn't cry for her and would not support her desire for revenge. But she didn't go that way and so that tact was lost.
We stayed up an hour past her bedtime, and with a lot of crying and hugging she went reluctantly to bed. I told her that because she thinks about these questions in such a heartfelt way that she was expressing the love of God and the need for justice, that this is what makes great leaders and that these are the sorts of questions that have vexed mankind since the beginning of time. They make all of us cry, because the answers are often very difficult, but that her head and her heart are in the right direction.
This is the day my baby grew up. She'll still be 'Sprite', but a new nickname is in order.