Exclusives — 17 November 2010
World Lessons From A 5 Year Old

Ask Kytka Archives, 2002

So most of you know I am the anti-TV mom… But I wanted to confess – we watched TV this morning! Actually, we watched about 45 minutes of a DVD I have.

It is a show called Powaqqatsi. A movie which features only images along with a beautiful and mostly non-lyrical soundtrack.

I have cut and pasted some information about the movie after the dialogue below.

Anyhow – my children and I sat and watched this. I had seen it in an art house theater when it first came out and it has recently been made available via DVD so I purchased it along with it’s mother, KOYAANISQATSI, which I recalled being somewhat violent.

It was interesting to hear what Zanna, my 5 year old had to say after the program. Keep in mind, this is a child who has maybe seen 10 hours of television in her ENTIRE LIFE…..

This is a word for word the dialogue with Zanna’s talking in quotations and mine NOT in quotations. Many of my questions were purposefully leading to try to get more out of her…. I am always in awe of the depth of feelings and thoughts the images evoked in her:

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“Mom, I think those people are better than us”

Why?

“They have to work for everything and they work hard. We just GET everything and we don’t have to do very much at all”

Why do you think that is?

“Because we are spoiled. We already have everything. We have roofs on our houses. We can turn on the faucet and have water. They have to walk in the dust for long, long ways carrying the water on their heads. All we have to do is turn it on in the kitchen or fill our bottles at the health food store.”

Don’t you think they have a health food store?

“No. They don’t even have a regular store. They don’t have anything”

So how, if they don’t have anything, can they be better than us?

“Because they DON’T HAVE ANYTHING. They are only busy. They work all day, together – everyone was helping everyone. Even the small children like Zynnia (2) carried things, heavy things to help the people.”

Yes, I saw that but I still don’t understand why or how that would make you say they are ‘better people’.

“They are not spoiled with too much. We have everything and we are spoiled because I never carried anything heavy.”

Would you like me to give you heavy things to carry?

“I would like to help. I would like to work. I would like to help everybody!”

Yes, but the people we saw on the show work very hard, from the moment the sun wakes up to the moment the sun goes down. Then they lay on a simple mat, like the one we take to the beach and they sleep in their roof-less house…. Imagine if it rains!

“They would get wet. At least their house would get washed and they wouldn’t have to work on that! They must be too tired to play, that’s why the children’s eyes were very sad. Mama, how come the children looked like so much older?”

I don’t understand – they were small…. how do you mean?

“They looked older…… They didn’t look like me (5) or Zachary (10).”

They live in a different world. They have seen other things. Their lives are hard. Maybe it makes them more grown up.

“I don’t think it makes them into grown ups. I think it makes them smarter. They looked smarter. Their eyes were very smart. They have only seen grown up things.”

You think seeing grown up things makes you smart?

“Grown up things make you know more.”

I think you know a whole lot! I think you are very smart too.

“Yes, but the children in the show are smarter. They know about other things.”

Yes, I am sure they do. I still am not sure why you would say they are better people. I think we are all the same.

“No. That’s not true. We are not the same. We are spoiled with our all of our dolls and toys. We eat all day and they wait all day for some seeds. Our bird probably gets more seeds then they do. We have everything and they have nothing. It’s not fair. Can we give them some of our stuff?”

What would you like to give to the people?

“All of our things. We don’t need them.”

What DO we need?

Each other, to work, a few dishes and a rope.

That’s all? What about my computer? Dad’s tools? Our bed? All of your clothes? Our blender for smoothies? What about our car?

“We don’t need all of that. The pipas (young coconut) in Costa Rica taste better than Dads smoothie and we didn’t need the blender for that. I have so many dolls I don’t play with any of them anymore. I can’t pick which one so I don’t play with any. I am spoiled!”

I think you are a fine young lady and I don’t think you are spoiled at all.

“But I have everything I could ever want…. more than everything and it’s not fair and I like to walk everywhere. I wish we didn’t have a car.”

Why is it not fair.

“Because they have nothing and we have everything. We have too much.”

Did they look happy or sad to have nothing?

“They looked like the Mayan children in Belize. They looked happy. Remember when we drove by how they all smiled and waved at us? Remember how they hugged us when we were at the village by the ferry boat? I liked them so much. They were all so nice to me. Remember the doll we made from the long leaves.”

Before you said they looked sad.

“It is another sad. Maybe they don’t look sad… they just look different with their eyes. They see other things. The see things that are different. Uh… I can’t say it the right way (getting frustrated because she can’t find the words… so I cut in)

I do know what you are saying. The children we met in the Mayan villages were very nice children.

“I miss them. I miss sleeping with the screen windows and hearing the jungle outside. In this house we always hear traffic. All we hear is noise. There is too much noise here. I don’t hear the birds. I don’t hear the waterfall. I miss washing clothes in the river and playing tag with those children. I don’t like to be here. I don’t want to keep going to the post office, going to the grocery store, going, going, always going. It’s too loud here, and too fast all of the time.”

But won’t you miss your grandmother? The things we do here? Won’t you miss going to the health food store, the organic farm?

“Yes, but she can come visit us and we do much better things there. Everything there is like the farm. We don’t even have to drive to the farm there – we can just pick and eat the pipas and the leaves Patrick showed us everywhere there. Everything is good there.”

Yes. I like it there too. But won’t you miss all of your stuff?

“No.”

What should we do with it? You said you’d like to give it to the children there – is that what you’d like to do?

“No. Then they will be spoiled like we are. I like it better when they play with the stones and leaves and the running games.”

I still don’t think you are spoiled. When I think of the world spoiled I think about a child who is crying to get what she wants, stomping her foot like this, whining like this, and being difficult to reason with. That is what I always thought that spoiled meant. (doing the motions to demonstrate)

“No. Everyone here is spoiled, even when they don’t do that. Everything is too fast and too easy. Nobody has to work for anything, they just go and buy it. Everyone here is always buying more, more, more stuff.”

Maybe they need it.

“Why would they need more and more stuff?”

I don’t know, but maybe they do….

“No Mama, they are spoiled and we are spoiled too when we live here.”

Are we spoiled when we are in Belize or Costa Rica?

“No. We are happier. We are happier when we don’t have too much.”

So people who are spoiled are not happy?

“No. They think they are happy because they are always getting more, but getting more doesn’t make you happy. You only feel happy for a few minutes and then it goes away and you only wish for more again. When you are spoiled you are NEVER happy.”

You looked pretty happy when you were opening your Christmas presents…

“I was happy but only for a little while. I don’t even play with those presents any more. I always have a tummy ache at Christmas.”

Maybe you ate too much of the sweets and food we had made.

“No, it’s because there was too much stuff. Too much food, Too many presents. I don’t like Christmas here.”

Where do you like Christmas?

“I want to have Christmas in Costa Rica like my birthday. I didn’t get any presents and it was the best day ever!”

Why was it the best day ever?

“Because we just had fun together. We played and ran on the beach and Zachary climbed the tree and got the sweet pipas. Mama, why are they so cold inside when they come off the tree and not from the refrigerator?”

I don’t know – why do you think?

Maybe God wanted them to cool us off so he made the skin very thick and it keeps the hot sun out.”

That sounds right to me.

“I liked that show Mama.”

You did? Parts of it were very sad looking though, at least that is what I thought. Many of those people looked so hungry and tired….

“Yes they did, but that’s life. (shrugging shoulders)”

That’s life is it? Why do you say that….

“Because it is.”

Life isn’t running errands and shopping and eating out and playing?

“Sometimes, but it’s also working and seeing things”

Seeing things like what?

“Like the show. Seeing things we don’t see all the time.”

I don’t understand – why?

“So we can see how the other people live.”

Do you think more people should see shows like this one?

“I think everybody should see this show because it shows everything how it is in places that are not here.”

But we live here, and here it is different.

“But it’s not real here.”

The post office is real, the health food store is real…. or did I dream buying those avocados yesterday? No… I see them there on the table…

“That’s not what I mean”

What do you mean?

“I don’t know…. You know Mama, you are teasing me! You know what I mean!”

You are right…. I do know. I think you are very smart and I love you!

“I love you too…. I am going to color those children and the pretty lady with the flowing silk dress…..”

Okay. I am going to wash the dishes….

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I have not added or built upon any of this – the above is verbatim of what my five year old daughter shared with me….

She is so observant, so “right on” in her notice of what the film is meant to show – I am just  grateful.

Amazed as I sit here and write this, listening to her words again as she sleeps….

I mean, how many 5 year olds have such WISDOM?

How many people of ANY age have such wisdom?

How many people truly OBSERVE the messages, the subtleties, the obvious?

I am so in awe and gratitude of and for my children!

Here is the info about the show as well as ordering info:

POWAQQATSI’s overall focus is on natives of the Third World — the emerging, land-based cultures of Asia, India, Africa, the Middle East and South America — and how they express themselves through work and traditions. What it has to say about these cultures is an eyeful and then some, sculpted to allow for varied interpretations. Where KOYAANISQATSI dealt with the imbalance between nature and modern society, POWAQQATSI is a celebration of the human-scale endeavor the craftsmanship, spiritual worship, labor and creativity that defines a particular culture. It’s also a celebration of rareness — the delicate beauty in the eyes of an Indian child, the richness of a tapestry woven in Kathmandu — and yet an observation of how these societies move to a universal drumbeat. POWAQQATSI is also about contrasting ways of life, and in part how the lure of mechanization and technology and the growth of mega-cities are having a negative effect on small-scale cultures. The title POWAQQATSI is a Hopi Indian conjunctive — the word Powaqa, I which refers to a negative sorcerer who lives at the expense of others, and Qatsi –i.e., life. Several of “POWAQQATSI’s” images point to a certain lethargy affecting its city dwellers. They could be the same faces we saw in the smaller villages but they seem numbed; their eyes reflect caution, uncertainty. And yet POWAQQATSI, says Reggio, is not a film about what should or shouldn’t be. “It’s an impression, an examination of how life is changing”, he explains. “That’s all it is. There is good and there is bad. What we sought to capture is our unanimity as a global culture. Most of us tend to forget about this, caught up as we are in our separate trajectories. It was fascinating to blend these different existences together in one film.” To be certain, POWAQQATSI is a record of diversity and transformation, of cultures dying and prospering, of industry for its own sake and the fruits of individual labor, presented as an integrated human symphony — and with Philip Glass’ score providing the counterpart, performed with native, classical and electronic instruments, its tribal rhythms fused by a single majesterial theme.

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KOYAANISQATSI, Reggio’s debut as a film director and producer, is the first film of the QATSI trilogy. The title is a Hopi Indian word meaning “life out of balance.” Created between 1975 and 1982, the film is an apocalyptic vision of the collision of two different worlds — urban life and technology versus the environment. The musical score was composed by Philip Glass. KWorld Lessons From A 5 Year Oldattempts to reveal the beauty of the beast! We usually perceive our world, our way of living, as beautiful because there is nothing else to perceive. If one lives in this world, the globalized world of high technology, all one can see is one layer of commodity piled upon another. In our world the “original” is the proliferation of the standardized. Copies are copies of copies. There seems to be no ability to see beyond, to see that we have encased ourselves in an artificial environment that has remarkably replaced the original, nature itself. We do not live with nature any longer; we live above it, off of it as it were. Nature has become the resource to keep this artificial or new nature alive. That being said, my intention in-other-words, let me describe the bigger picture. KOYAANISQATSI is not so much about something, nor does it have a specific meaning or value. KOYAANISQATSI is, after all, an animated object, an object in moving time, the meaning of which is up to the viewer. Art has no intrinsic meaning. This is its power, its mystery, and hence, its attraction. Art is free. It stimulates the viewer to insert their own meaning, their own value. So while I might have this or that intention in creating this film, I realize fully that any meaning or value KOYAANISQATSI might have comes exclusively from the beholder. The film’s role is to provoke, to raise questions that only the audience can answer. This is the highest value of any work of art, not predetermined meaning, but meaning gleaned from the experience of the encounter. The encounter is my interest, not the meaning. If meaning is the point, then propaganda and advertising is the form. So in the sense of art, the meaning of KOYAANISQATSI is whatever you wish to make of it. This is its power.

To learn more or purchase these DVD’s…

Inspired Comments & Conversation:

Dear Kytka, This is the voice of the child of the present age which the adults’ society does not realize! I wish Zanna’s voice can be heard by all educators! Would you like to include this conversation in your website? Then if I may, I would like to forward it to our educators! ~Ghamin

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You know Ghamin, I am always amazed at what they say and how it is truly so PROFOUND and yet so simple… That is what makes them so brilliant and in my opinion, OUR teachers.

The adults of “modern society” seem so comfortable in their role as “teacher” and “expert” that they completely overlook what little children bring into this life with them… knowledge and observation much bigger than us and our limited views. I almost want to say that the older we grow, the more we move away from or LACK the depth and perception of the “conditions of the human soul”! Living in today’s world not only desensitizes us, but de-enlightens us – it darkens us…. It is a vacuum which can easily suck the light from within. And in my opinion, it is done intentionally by those who want to control. The corporations who now pull the strings of the global world. There is a specific purpose to dumb us all down – it is to keep us captive and submissive…. it is to keep us from having thoughts and conversations such as what transpired between my daughter and myself. It is to keep us away from the freedom to observe and see…. We are “fed” a series of images, news, stories which make us form a very one sided view of almost everything and the media DOES do this. The media is everywhere and those who control the media control what we end up feeling as we form opinions based on what THEY decide to feed us….

Last night I had a French guest for dinner and we spoke of the differences in our cultures and how Americans have always had a thing about the French… Of course, in light of all things political now – we also discussed the world situation and how they report the news in other places of the world… People are just ignorant now and it’s because they take at face value what they see and hear as FACT. They don’t look at the source of the information…. they don’t ask questions. They just hear it and accept it. It is the demise and downfall of all of us as more and more people are less and less aware and awakened…..

But back to Zanna, granted my questions and comments were quite leading – but still – they were open ended and it was amazing that she was so completely aware of so many “issues” present. And even though I try to shield them from current events, etc… They KNOW. They know everything….. much more than we do. I Thank God, the heavens, my lucky stars, the universe… for having them. They are the greatest gift to the world, the children. All of the children, everywhere. ~Kytka

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Wow Kytka! I too am impressed by your little one, ALSO by the fact that you value so highly the perspective of a five year old. I do think though that most five year olds would have this perspective, with or without the incredible nurturing environment you’ve given your own little one. I remember saying to another Mom a few years ago “kids today are Different than we were, they are coming in smarter, knowing things we didn’t know, more Ready somehow”. I’m sure this is not verbatim of my comments, but the sentiment still holds.

I don’t think the difference just reflects media exposure or kids growing up too fast. I think little ones today are Wiser. I know my life has changed since my girls came to be. It is hard to explain – just as Zanna was having a hard time describing Sad or Happy in the children’s eyes – I have this same experience making eye contact with toddlers in their Mom’s grocery carts at the store. You know the saying “the lights are on but nobody’s home”….well, these kids are HOME. I get quite worked up, I can feel hope surging when I think about kids today. Thank you for reminding me! ~Lisa

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Your daughter and children have strong wisdom about what the society is putting itself towards. The time will come when the youth strong take on the basic stance on changing society for the better and more importantly they are trying to tell you to share with those who are less fortunate. I want to share a story with you: There was a man who was poor and had a friend who was rich, he (The poor man) arrived at his friends house and was entertained, in fact he was entertained so much he was drunk and passed out, then his friend, took a highly valuable gem from his treasure and quietly sewn it into his robe. The two departed to their separate ways, the poor man did not know that a gem was sewn into his robe, and as a result, he was so poor that he even went to bed hungry sometimes. The two met again and he (the rich man) told him (the poor man) that a gem was sewn into his robe. Your daughter has total rich wisdom and more importantly she wants to give all that she can. ~Christopher

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