“Enjoy our Cafe in the Crypt!”

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In London today, my son and I wandered around and ended up at St Martin in the Fields Church.  (Yes, yes, I have let strangers know I am on holiday and now my home will be burgled. Enjoy my rhinestones.)

St Martins is outrageously beautiful and it does indeed serve lovely gourmet food in the crypt. We walked around down there for a few minutes, looking at the flat gravestones that make up much of the floor.

The fact that it’s not depressing or weird to each lunch there proved one thing — long-ago deaths seem kind of cool, not sad. But looking at the dates inscribed on those stones proved something else. “Wow, ” said my son, 18, pointing. “This one died at 20.”

I peered closer. “No — that one died at 2.”

His eyes widened. Next to this was a mom who died and was buried with two of her children “who died in infancy.” Then a 12-year-old. And someone in his 20s and a woman in her 30s, and one woman who lived till 100! And a young man of 19, who was born in Africa and joined at age 12 the family that loved and buried him. I wonder what that story was.

But the bigger story was short and simple: It was, until very recently, normal for kids to die at 2, at 12, at 19 and in infancy. People in any era before ours would have given anything to live in a time when ordinary citizens could enjoy clean running water, antibiotics, and abundant, affordable, delicious food (even served in a crypt!).

So sometimes it feels as if we are living in a parable: The gods promise the people Utopia — health and wealth and almost perfect safety…with one caveat.

Which is? “You will never FEEL safe! Mwa ha ha ha ha!”

That seems to be a bargain we have made. And it seems that the point of the parable would be that we are fools to drum up new fears and fret about 1-in-a-million dangers (“You left your child in the car while you picked up the pizza???”) when we are so extremely lucky.

So very much luckier than the folks underfoot at lunch. – L.

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A happy meal?

kiddiyedsz
A happy meal?

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27 Responses to “Enjoy our Cafe in the Crypt!”

  1. Troutwaxer March 22, 2016 at 1:54 am #

    The way people forget history is amazing. This is a golden age for childhood – there was never, ever, in all of history a better or easier time to be a kid. Turning this amazing time where the rates of childhood disease, child labor, and childhood accidents are lower than they have ever been in history into a monument to anxiety… that’s as crazy as it gets!

  2. Art March 22, 2016 at 6:13 am #

    @troutwaxer

    I tend to disagree now. This generation of children are stressed out, misunderstood, more likely to be punished for doing the right thing or trying to defend themselves against a bully. We have forgotten how to deal with our kids on any reasonable level and/or what’s considered truly age appropriate.Such as Kindergartners not being forced to sit for hours and do seat work or centers being considered bad. As of right now, Pre K is the new Kinder, and these kids are required to be able to read and write by the time they leave Pre K. Yet they even know what half the letters are. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

  3. dorean prognostika March 22, 2016 at 7:41 am #

    very interesting place for a coffee !!!

  4. Workshop March 22, 2016 at 9:10 am #

    Life without modern medicine sucks.

    And Troutwaxer, you’re right. We have things at our beck and call that would be called magical if we lived a hundred years ago. Computers, travel, Amazon. Heck, there are companies that deliver fresh food to your doorstep weekly. Oranges in winter. Starvation (real starvation, not the whiney “I’m huuuuungry” stuff that passes for starvation today) is pretty much eradicated in this country. Don’t believe me? Obesity is the largest public health problem among the poor. Our poor eat too much. Infant mortality is rare. The most serious threat to children are the cars we drive to shuttle them back and forth to leisure activities.

    And yet, we forget that just seventy years ago, about 80ish years ago was the Dustbowl, where there were real problems. Eighty years before that, doctors thought that cleaning their surgical tools was an unnecessary step.

    Today? Yeah, I let my kids play while I took my eyes off them. Nothing happened (except they slept really well last night). Story at 11.

  5. Opal March 22, 2016 at 9:59 am #

    This makes me wonder if there’s more to our fear response than just the media. There are some things (snakes, spiders, certain patterns/noises) that almost everyone recoils from or fears at a basal level, stemming from evolutionary adaptations in our brains to keep us safe. With such high mortality rates among the young for so long, I wonder if we may have an involuntary “worry” response for small children. In our modern era, where we have little to worry about, perhaps we still feel that worry, but our brain can’t figure out what we’re worrying about, so seeks out confirmation. This would result in any tiny risk being blown out of proportion as we seek to rationalize our worry.

  6. Troutwaxer March 22, 2016 at 10:15 am #

    @ Art

    I agree with you completely. What I should say is that our current age should be the best time ever, historically speaking, to be a child. It is not the best time ever due to the sorts of things you identified in your post.

  7. Vicious Delicious March 22, 2016 at 10:26 am #

    @opal “This makes me wonder if there’s more to our fear response than just the media.”, http://www.freerangekids.com/enjoy-our-cafe-in-the-crypt/#comment-420924

    From my perspective, I think we only have a capacity to worry to a certain degree before we just give up and decide to not let thoughts or feelings about worry take away our everyday complacency.

    And I think that is manipulable, and exploitable – the government and the powers that be, can easily use our limited capacity for worry to misdirect legitimate concern over administrative foul play, corruption, and incompetence, by overloading us with the most easily digestible and discernible worries.
    And especially, keep us in the dark about how realistic those concerns and worries are, comparatively speaking.

    Watch me, I’ll do it in two steps flat:

    Step 1.
    “Did you know that no country on earth has any plans for what to do with the robotization that is going to eliminate half of all jobs, unemployment is rising, the country is massively in debt held up by an inflated petrodollar, student debts are increasing and your child is most likely not going to have a very nice future?”

    Step 2.
    “I am a person who is sexually attracted to minor girls”

    Which of these worries have you been conditioned to respond the most to?

  8. Papilio March 22, 2016 at 11:17 am #

    @Vicious: re Step 1: Some countries have looked into giving everyone a basic income plus the *possibility* (not necessity) of having a job to gain more income.

  9. John March 22, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

    Let’s not forget the invention of anesthesia. Can you imagine getting a root canal or a tooth pulled without anesthesia? How about some of your general surgical procedures? Going to the doctor / hospital back in those days must have been a terrifying experience!

  10. Vicious Delicious March 22, 2016 at 12:42 pm #

    @Papillo: “Some countries have looked into”

    Yes, and the development of human rights, citizen’s rights, and childrens’ rights is fascinating to be sure, a lot of it having been held back not only by exploitation by established power structures and scarcity, but mainly by an ethical framework that was built upon judeo-christian normative ethics, i.e. “morals”.

    This is an interesting book about the first slums of the industrial age, in London: http://www.amazon.co.uk/People-Abyss-Illustrated-Jack-London/dp/1482642964

    Unfortunately, I don’t see the US as being the most socially progressive, or humanitarian nation in the world, so as your optimism is refreshing and it is good that you know of UBI, I think a lot of people who have kids in the educational pipeline have every right to be scared shitless of whether or not /their/ kid is going to get one of the few jobs that maybe hundreds will compete for.

    A fear that I think is easier to replace for something else, something that is perhaps more easily definable, that you can relate and react to emotionally.

    Fear of future fail, feeling that your country’s future is going down the drain and your kids will be hit by that?
    Not so easy to manage emotionally, except with a pitless feeling of dread.

  11. Beth2 March 22, 2016 at 2:21 pm #

    @Opal:

    “With such high mortality rates among the young for so long, I wonder if we may have an involuntary “worry” response for small children. In our modern era, where we have little to worry about, perhaps we still feel that worry, but our brain can’t figure out what we’re worrying about, so seeks out confirmation.”

    I think that is possibly brilliant.

  12. Cindy Karlan March 22, 2016 at 2:28 pm #

    I know this has nothing to do with kids, but your story reminds me of a trip our family took with my mother-in-law. My husband was working in Uganda, and we invited my mother-in-law to visit and go on safari with us to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. As we boarded the tiny plane from Nairobi to the Mara, my mother-in-law struggled to climb the flimsy rope ladder. She said, “Apparently, they don’t have any ADA laws here. How can someone who is old, overweight, or disabled get onto this plane?” I explained that mostly able-bodied Americans, Europeans, and Australians/New Zealanders tend to go on these types of safaris. Disabled people on much of the continent don’t receive the advantages that able-bodied people get. Plus, I pointed out that most Kenyans are not obese, and the average life expectancy of a Kenyan is 60 years old, so Kenya is not in the habit of accommodating elderly people. She was stunned. I always tell people that the best way to stop taking their American/developed world culture for granted is to visit a developing country. I would love to air drop a variety of narrow-minded politicians into the jungle of the Congo so that they have to interact with typical people who live on our planet in order to come back home. Many of our fears and expectations for others would be tossed aside if we understood how other cultures live.

  13. Michelle March 22, 2016 at 3:13 pm #

    @Art, I agree that those things suck, big time. But not as much as preschoolers spending their days picking cotton, or crippled or dead from disease.

  14. Margot March 22, 2016 at 4:21 pm #

    How timely. Just last night my 12 year old was doing her history assignment. In the final section, she had to imagine what life would be like living as a peasant in the middle ages. No access to education, no modern medicines to treat disease and injury, poverty caused by arbitrary taxes imposed by lords and masters, no modern farming technology so hard physical labour from dawn to dusk, a limited range of foods, more often not enough, inadequate heating and clothing, so cold and damp for six months of the year, and the constant threat of invasion and violent battles with neighbouring kingdoms. I reminded her being female would only make it worse; being the property of men and being beaten and sexually assaulted with no protection under the law. I often like to remind my kids of this very contrast whenever they won’t eat their dinner that contains a range of nutritious foods, they carry on like a pork chop about some perceived slight by a school mate or they complain about having to empty the garbage AND do their violin practice!

  15. lollipoplover March 22, 2016 at 4:50 pm #

    We are on vacation, too (cue hamburglars). No cemetery visits, but my almost 15 year old, who has taken the Red Cross certification for lifeguarding, was yelled at for sitting in our resort hot tub!
    He refused to get out and told the older, heavyset woman who was trying to enforce the no one under 18 rule that those at greatest risk are folks with cardiovascular disease and obesity, not fit and healthy teens.
    And since there is no lifeguard on duty, he offered to look out for her…probably the funniest exchange I’ve ever seen.

  16. Art March 22, 2016 at 6:19 pm #

    @Michelle,

    You’re comparing apples to oranges though. Yes, things WERE bad 100 years ago, this is a completely different case and what this website is about.

    The short story is that childhood is not “politically correct” for lack of better terminology. The idea that children need time to explore, learn, properly socialize, and work toward becoming functional adults has gone by the wayside.

    Today’s kids suffer from helicopter parenting, (the helicopter phenomenon is only about 20 years old), overscheduling, micromanagement to the extreme, recess or downtime is seen as nonproductive and should be curtailed, the “everyone’s a winner, everyone gets a trophy” thinking that’s completely unrealistic, and gives a false sense of how life really is. Creativity is downplayed or flat out frowned upon. These kids are being high stakes tested all the way to 3rd Grade and they want to expand to KINDERGARTEN.

    And yes, I’m going to say it, the goddamn cell phones and screens that are babysitting these kids. This is killing the ability to properly socialize and communicate with each other. It’s killing creativity, critical thinking skills and that’s the tip of the iceberg.

    We have gone so far into left field, that a 5 year old can get on the SOR just for giving a classmate a peck on the cheek, and this happened in Texas. Along with Stranger/Pedo panic, which is completely unwarranted.

    This new style of thinking has begun to cause a major rift between adults and children. Adults have become much less tolerant of children, to the point of almost hate, and now we are reaping what we have sowed. In short, dogs will growl before they bite, we’ve taken our kids “growl” away, and now they are starting to bite.

  17. Vicious Delicious March 22, 2016 at 6:42 pm #

    @Art “This new style of thinking has begun to cause a major rift between adults and children.”

    Let me just butt in on that one, even though I am dreadfully biased perhaps I can add a note.

    What I am seeing is an increase in peer-attachment, and a decrease in adult-attachment.

    This creates a bubble of, well, vacuousness – at 13/14 you are a complete idiot and with no older friends you are going through your teenage years being a fool.

    Which, again, leads to some teenage girls not wanting to be unnaturally kept down at the level of children when by nature they would have already become mothers, hooking up with adult men – because they treat them with respect and as equals.

    If you don’t want young adults to be “preyed upon” or have their problems – caused by YOU demeaning them – exploited, do try and not treat them as children.

    Because they are not children.

  18. Art March 22, 2016 at 6:57 pm #

    @vd

    Teens are going to be aloof and distrustful. Comes with the territory but the problem arises when we treat teens as children, which is basically what’s happening, and extending “childhood” to mid 20’s.

  19. Vicious Delicious March 22, 2016 at 7:10 pm #

    @art

    Charlie Brooker said it best. No comment necessary. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqoUGqssXdE

  20. Vicious Delicious March 22, 2016 at 7:13 pm #

    Or, the slightly more provocative side-glance at the obsession of childhood as an innocent state in need of protection and sheltering, in the pageant-stripper scene from “Bad Grandpa”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBQn-oPqdrA

    Yes my sense of humor is twisted.

  21. Papilio March 22, 2016 at 7:36 pm #

    @Vicious: Hey, you said ‘no country on earth has any plans for what to do with the robotization’, I just wanted to indicate that you were (at least partially – I really don’t know how concrete their plans are or if it’s just ideas at this point) wrong. No need to James me.

  22. Vicious Delicious March 22, 2016 at 7:52 pm #

    @Papilio:

    I’m hoping that the Swiss (http://www.dw.com/en/basic-income-for-the-swiss/a-19016377 ) or the Canadians (http://qz.com/633974/ontario-canada-announced-a-plan-to-test-universal-basic-income-for-all-citizens/ ) – or even Finnland (http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2015/12/06/finally-someone-does-something-sensible-finland-to-bring-in-a-universal-basic-income/#602478a076f6 ) will make some headway into the idea, yes, I’m just saying just pointing to /plans/ and proposals doesn’t actually put things on an agenda.

    I recently viewed a UN panel discussion in Geneva, which had been EIGHT years in just the planning, and at the end I felt like I had just been witness to the most ignorant circle-jerking ever.

    As they say, people who enjoy sausages or politics ought not witness how either are made.

  23. Cassie March 23, 2016 at 2:12 am #

    Ha, I think Lenore had a giggle as she was typing the tags for this post.

    ” child death, child safety, crypt, danger, early death, London, parable, St Martin”

  24. hineata March 23, 2016 at 3:52 am #

    That is so true Lenore! So many of us wouldn’t have survived childhood at all in bygone years, something we oftentimes forget to be grateful for (that we live now, I mean ☺). El Sicko certainly wouldn’t have lived beyond her first year before the advent of antibiotics, but as I am the product of a 4 day labour that would have ended in my death without the intervention of a decent obstetrician, that point’s moot anyway ☺.

    Enjoy your holiday, and all that wonderful crypt food ☺.

  25. kouloxerides March 23, 2016 at 7:36 am #

    I am so interested in your articles..congratulations Reading your articles is so pleasant for me..Thank you

  26. dancing on thin ice March 23, 2016 at 5:03 pm #

    Our town’s 1600’s era cemetery has many infant graves.
    But the early settlers also had professions at an early age as well. A teen laid out the town’s property lines. Later, as an adult he founded a large city and as governor gave the state its nickname.

  27. faroi March 25, 2016 at 6:41 am #

    very interesting article, great list…