When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
it was beautiful, magical
and all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily,
joyfully, playfully, watching me,
But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible,
logical, responsible, practical,
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
clinical, intellectual, cynical…
— Richard Davies and Roger Hodgson
For centuries, we have followed this simple pattern of being born with joy and fun only to have society extinguish most of it, as we graduated into adulthood. It should not and does not have to be this way.
“Great is the man who has not lost his childlike heart.”
My stepdad was one of the few that did not lose his childlike heart. Even in his 70’s and 80’s, Joe laughed out loud, he got down on the floor and played with my kids every time he could, he enjoyed life with a permanent twinkle in his eye. He was a great man because he never lost his childlike heart. I’m sure Saint Peter swung the gate wide open when he passed away a few weeks ago.
I think we need to take almost everything less seriously and put fun back into our lives. Being fun should not be so foreign a thought when you are north of 35 years old.
Worse yet, we are pushing adulthood seriousness into younger and younger age brackets. Why do parents of 9 year olds take “select club” sports so seriously? They act like every game is critical, coaching her all the way to the field, yelling instructions nonstop every minute played, and then debriefing her all the way home, after calculating the number of minutes she played. In addition to 2 – 3 club practices every week, they take her to special coaches for speed and agility training, and other private coaches for skills that promise to give her an edge. Some even have her practice and play with multiple teams, to keep her options open and to get more “touches” on the ball. Yikes!
These “serious-like-adults” programs are everywhere — soccer, football, softball, gymnastics, academics (after-school Kumon has 300,000+ hopeful future valedictorians enrolled in the U.S., and Kumon is but one of many academic dojos) — our hyper-competitive society is systematically taking the fun out of childhood before it has any chance to blossom. It now starts at 6 years old! Parents are suckers for the sales pitch: you have to give your kid an “edge” if he or she is to be a winner.
By the time kids grow up, fun has been extinguished for almost everyone.
Optimists must take proactive steps to remedy the situation, starting with their own families. Actions speak louder than words. When’s the last time you did anything for the simple fun of it? When is the last time you really engaged and played with your kids — really played their games and got in the middle of the action? It’s a great first step to rediscovering that you too can be fun again. Most importantly, playing with them is real “quality” time — simply watching them play at the park while you read your iPad is not really quality stuff.
If your kids are grown, don’t just meet them for Sunday brunch. Go snow skiing, go sailing, go camping, go fly kites at the beach (yes, adults can fly kites — don’t look at the computer screen so incredulously). Organize some fun for your too-serious-and-intellectual adult friends too — Ultimate Frisbee is a lot more fun than relationships via facebook.
Life’s too short to not have fun. Laugh out loud, for the fun of it.
Here’s to the pursuit of happiness!
I.M. Optimism Man