Jul 25 2011
Put Me at the Kids' Table. Thanks.

When I was a kid, I thought adults were boring.  Man, was I right.

I mean it.  At least American adults are, most of us.  And if I bring it up, in adult conversation, the ensuing objections prove me right.

"But I jump out of helicopters onto icy mountain peaks and ski down on my bare hands and..." -- exactly.  No offense, but that's kinda what I mean.  Bored people are boring people, and we're so bored, as a culture, we have only the extreme or expensive to amuse us, get our attention, make us tune in, or feel something. 

Contrast that with a kid, at least of the non-jaded variety:  My wife sits down with a family friend, Keaton, who happens to be three, and shows him a book with a drawing of a pickle-truck. 

"WHOA.  Is that a PICKLE?  Is that a TRUCK?"

"It's a pickle-truck."

"WOW.  I have NEVER saw one of those.  PLEASE TELL ME ABOUT IT!"

"It looks like a pickle, and there are pickles in it."

"WHOA.  It has pickles IN it?  WHY WOULD A TRUCK HAVE PICKLES???"

It's a darn good question.  And when you're a kid, or you're child-like, you're full of good questions, because EVERYTHING is interesting.  And stuff doesn't get old very quickly.  Twirl me once, it's fun!  Twirl me a thousand and twelve more times?  It's STILL fun.  Again.  And again.  And again.  Do it again!

Silly?  I don't think so.  Or, at least, "silly" isn't so bad.  (Maybe interesting:  "Silly", taken from a German word, originally, in old English, meant simply "innocent".)  Twirl me a thousand times.  There must be something beautiful about repetition.  God didn't make one sunflower, He keeps making millions.  Over and over and over.  Again.  And again.  And every time, I suspect He's delighted.

So I get a big kick out of little, dumb stuff, and people say I'm easily amused.  And that sounds great to me.  Kids -- at least kids who aren't jaded -- are "easily amused".  It's the bored ones, acting like bored adults, who need the expensive new toy, or trip, to feel alive.  Adults will quickly tell you of their awesome vacation, or "extreme" experience, or fast vehicle to prove they're not boring. 

And, in our "adult" culture, if you show up on TV with a meat dress, they'll talk about you for a couple days.  Then you better come up with something else.  A fun kid just needs a little ball, and a wall, and the afternoon is set.

I'm with G.K. Chesterton, who delighted in everything.  As accomplished as he was, he would stop, in letters to his wife, and remark about how wonderfully "inky this ink is!"  The mere "inky-ness" was enough to make him happy.  Wonder is to be found in everything.  Is he the weird one?  I think everything is infused with meaning, everything is interesting, because God created it, and loves it.  And yes, I mean everything.  The whole cosmos.

Historian Jacques Barzun says as much in his magisterial From Dawn to Decadence, that we've reached the age of people stumbling from one planned adrenaline-jolt to the next, in search of a heartbeat.  We'll go to a movie, but, shoot, the very word "adult" means it better have some sex or some explosions, and usually, to try to wake us up, both.  That's what boring people need.

If that's adult -- and in this culture, it certainly is -- I'm with Chesterton.  

Sit us both at the kids' table.