Monday, September 12, 2005

The Meaning of Life

My son has discovered online chats. Every day after school, he 'meets' a group of his friends online and they chatter about whatever subjects preoccupy adolescents these days. I expect that they have the same preoccupations that you and I did when we were their age.

I am a parent. Parents worry sometimes. Although I am not a worrier by nature, it does occur to me occasionally that it is a big, bad world out there. There are predators everywhere. The courts don't do a very good job of keeping the sickos off the streets, so we need to teach our children to be careful. You know, things like "Don't talk to strangers, especially on the internet."

My son is pretty sensible, usually. Still, I'm curious about what the kids talk about. The other day, I sat down beside him in our computer room at home and asked him if he minded if I watched what he was doing. He readily agreed, and I sat and watched for a while. The experience was entertaining.

Several conversations were going on at the same time, each in its own chat window. In one chat, he was messaging back and forth with a girl he had never met, a friend of a friend of a classmate. Below, as best as I can remember, is a snippet of their dialogue. I won't even attempt to reproduce the chat 'shorthand' that the kids use.

She: So, what are you up to?

He: I'm pondering the meaning of life.

She: So what is it?

He: 42.

She: I don't get it.

He: (trying to come up with something both cool and imaginative) Well, 4 is the fourth letter of the alphabet, 'D,' and 2 is the second letter of the alphabet, 'B,' and together 'DB' stands for dumb blonde. (She's not blonde.) What do you think the meaning of life is?

She: I think it is loving someone, completely and deeply, for ever and ever.

There, in a nutshell, is the difference between males and females.

I think that at least as far as my son and his friends are concerned, I don't have too much reason to worry. Thank goodness. That leaves me free to worry about everything else.

With all that is going on in the world these days, that could be a full-time job.

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