The master enters the room and sits quietly waiting for his young pupil. He sighs, weary after his long journey. The door opens with a flourish bringing with it a gust of cold air and a fireball of energy. A young boy enters the room and starts pacing.
Teenager: ‘Do you know how tough it is being a teenager. Your mind feels as if it’s full of crazy bats flapping their wings trying to get out. Your body can’t decide what it’s doing. When you look in the mirror a stranger stares back.
You feel like you don’t belong anywhere. Sometimes you hate your family and wish they were all dead. Other times you want to be a four year old again and have an excuse to cuddle up to your mum or dad, feel safe. You can’t tell anyone any of this stuff. It sounds too crazy.’
Master: ‘You’re telling me.’
Teenager: ‘That’s different. You’re different’. He pauses and stares at the master.
‘Yes, you’re different and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because you don’t know me. You don’t live in my head.’
Master: ‘I don’t like bats either, so we can agree on that.’
Teenager: ‘Why do adults always crack stupid jokes?’
Master: ‘It’s part of being an adult. A form of insanity that keeps us sane in a crazy world.’
Teenager: ‘That’s like something my grandmother would say. Maybe she was right when she said the world wasn’t round. She said it was square with lots of jagged edges, and that it was our job as humans to get rid of the sharp edges and make it round again.’
‘That’s an interesting theory. Tell me – why are you here?’
Teenager: ‘I thought you were supposed to tell me. My parents said you could help me, make sure I stay on the straight and narrow, whatever that’s supposed to mean.’
Master: ‘I’m an old man and I’m not familiar with your world. How could I possibly help you?’
Teenager: ‘Give me the answers to everything so I can conquer the world. That would be awesome.’
Master: ‘You mean like a cheat-sheet? A formula for life you can refer to without working out the answer yourself?’
Teenager: ‘Well, maybe. But why is that cheating? Just because you have the answers doesn’t make you a cheat, does it?’
Master: ‘That depends. Knowledge is a powerful tool, but it must be used in the right way. If you haven’t worked out the answers for yourself how will you know they are the correct ones?’
Teenager: ‘But if everyone says it’s ok then it must be right. So I wouldn’t be cheating – just agreeing with everyone else.’
Master: ‘And what if you find out it’s wrong? What would you do? Would you change your mind and do the right thing?’
Teenager: ‘I don’t know. I never thought about it. Maybe there’s an App on my phone I can use to tell me. A Satnav for decisions. Then I can follow that. Problem solved.’
Master: ‘Like a physical conscience.’
Teenager: ‘What’s a conscience?’
Master :‘That element of inner understanding that shows you right from wrong. Understanding how your actions affect other people. Knowing that what you do is right, that the direction you’re taking is right, and knowing not to hurt other people.’
Teenager: ‘Teenagers don’t think about stuff like that. That’s for old people. We don’t have space in our heads for any of that. We live in the moment and enjoy life without overthinking it. Why make it complicated when there’s no need to?
‘So you’ll follow the crowd and not think for yourself?’
Teenager: ‘But I have to fit in. I don’t want to be different. No-one will like me and I’ll get bullied. That’s what they do when someone is different or isn’t part of the cool gang.’
Teenager: ‘You know – my friends, people I hang out with.’
Master: ‘So to be part of the cool gang you will bully someone, or hurt them?’
Teenager: ‘No way!’
Master: ‘But if you stand by and let it happen you’re guilty by association. If you don’t defend the hapless victims who will? If you don’t allow your conscience to guide you, how many more people will be hurt? If you don’t apply a moral code to your life, you will lose your personal identity and lose your way.
Right now you’re at a crucial stage in your life. You can choose to follow the right road and live a meaningful life.’
Teenager: ‘But this is the only time in my life when I can have fun, before I become boring and old. Why can’t I just enjoy myself now? My parents are always nagging me – telling me not to drink, not to take drugs, to respect women, to respect myself, to do everything in moderation. I should be out there pushing the boundaries, discovering new stuff, being myself. There are too many rules and they stifle me. And my head is too full of stuff I don’t want.’
‘You don’t have to break rules to have fun, and I assure you having fun never stops. Life is a journey that will bring you down many different pathways. Some you will choose to follow, others you will turn back and try a different route. Allowing your conscience to be your inner Sat Nav will help you take the right path.’
Teenager: ‘What happens if my inner Sat Nav isn’t working. Does that mean I’ve messed up?’
Master: ‘No-one lives a perfect life and everyone makes mistakes. What is important is to learn from those mistakes. If you saw a signpost that pointed one way saying – Right Road, and another one saying Wrong Road, which one would you take?’
Teenager: ‘I would take the one that said Wrong Road, because I’m curious. I would want to know what was at the end of it, and then I could turn back and take the Right Road.’
Master: ‘So you don’t mind falling off a cliff, or drowning in turbulent waters, or getting drawn into addiction – be it alcohol, or drugs, or some other addiction?’
Teenager: ‘My parents would help me. I could get counselling.’
Master:‘Perhaps you would be so enthralled with your new lifestyle you wouldn’t want help. Addiction draws you in, but may not let you go. You would need to be determined and strong to fight the battle. You would need to make a choice, and that choice will shape the remainder of your life.’
Teenager: ‘My friends say that not everyone gets addicted, and that it’s just scaremongering tactics by family and even the government. There are soft drugs that are ok. They relax you and often make your thoughts clearer, or even better stop you thinking. That’s got to be good.’
Master: ‘So you’re advocating soft drugs for clarity of thought? Will you teach your sister to use them?’
Teenager: ‘No way, Jose! That is so not happening. I’ll kill her if I ever found out she was taking drugs or drinking too much.’
Master: ‘So it’s ok for you to dabble, get inebriated, stoned, whatever words you kids use nowadays, but not your sister?’
Teenager: ‘It would put her in danger. Someone might hurt her. I couldn’t deal with that. No way!’
‘Perhaps it’s putting you in danger? Feeding the bats in your head and creating a distorted image of who you should be, of who you really are.
Do you still think that having fun this way is viable for you? Do you think it will give you a fun factor in your life, or is there another way.’
Teenager: ‘What other way? I don’t get that. Besides it’s my life and I’m not hurting anyone.’
Master: ‘How do you know you’re not hurting anyone? How do you know you’re not hurting yourself?’
Teenager: ‘So you’re saying all this crazy stuff in my head is my fault?’
Master: ‘No. As you pointed out to me when you came into the room, being a teenager is tough. You’re experiencing a physical and emotional storm which is quite normal and part of your development. However, feeding a cloud of frenzied-crazy-bats is not always a good option. Pardon the pun – it does cloud your judgment.’
Teenager: ‘So you’re saying if I don’t obey my parents and stop messing with my head, or take the right road bad stuff could happen. People could get hurt. I never thought of it like that. But if I’m Mr Clean-Boring-Guy I definitely won’t have any friends. They will turn their backs on me. I’ll be lonely.’
Master: ‘Perhaps they’re not the right friends for you. You may be lonely for a while if you follow the right path, but there are times when being lonely is good. It gives you time to think, time to clarify those thoughts. Slowly, one by one new friends will join you. You will draw strength from each other, teach each other, but most important of all you will see each and everyone of you as an individual.
Your parents’ advice is invaluable. Listen to it. They’ve learnt from experience what works and what doesn’t. Build your future life on a strong foundation, and remember that moral strength is as important as muscle strength. Become a hero in your own life, and live it honourably and with integrity. You are at the beginning of a wonderful adventure. Enjoy it, young man.’
Teenager: ‘I like that. It’s cool. You’re like Mr Miyagi in Karate Kid.’
‘As he says – “Balance is key,” and when you learn how to balance, it becomes easier to walk across the high wires in life. Your body and mind are already in the process of synchronizing.
Be courageous and meet your gaze in the mirror with pride. That is the strong adult version of yourself looking back at you, a glimpse of the mature and wonderful man you are becoming. Stay strong, stay focused, and learn how to meditate. It will give you a much greater high than any man-made synthetic stimulant, and a greater mental clarity. Live a life of courage. Be a man of courage.
Go now, young man. Your life awaits you. We will meet again one day.
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