Of Childish Things

Every once in a while I get into this pseudo-manic state where I think that everything is awesome and the world is beautiful and I feel compelled to go around telling everybody how great I think they are. I love these feelings. I love the energy this emotional swing lends, and I love experiencing that fervent wonder at things like the way the sky, alight with a magenta sunset, looks reflected on my open window. I’ll impulsively buy a compilation of poetry, or a novel I’ve never heard of, or a 400-page book on the history of Chechnya that I’ll probably never finish (true story), and the possibility contained within those soft pages leaves me elated. I’ll sing within earshot of other people, make ridiculous faces for absolutely no reason, and constantly interrupt my own sentences with inane-but-occasionally-humorous half-thoughts. It’s impossible to not smile or dance or fidget somehow, even in public. 

Sustaining this whimsy is impractical and perhaps even impossible—it is, without fail, interrupted by the same flow of ordinary activities and emotional shifts that engendered it to begin with. That aside, I think it’s an essential and very powerful facet of a wholehearted life. Capriciousness and spontaneity lead you to recognize what is awe-inspiring about our surroundings, the people we encounter and know, even the base materials of our existence. Acknowledging this unexpected luminosity is the first step towards gratitude (I would just like to point out that I accidentally started typing “greatitude” right there, which is surely a sign of something), which is kind of the crux of becoming a happier, healthier, more productive and resilient person (science says so). One of my favorite things to do is write lists of things that have made me happy on a given day, and I love that those can range from “my mum” to “the Nernst equation” to “things that smell like strawberries.” That childlike admiration is a fantastically important component of life: it makes you feel good, yes, and though to some extent that should be enough, I really believe it can make you better at navigating through the parts of life that require you to act like a grown-up.

And yet a lot of us live in a culture where accessing that optimistic part of our worldview is perceived as weak. Cynicism, we think, is the same as intelligence. Our bumper stickers insist that “if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” We belittle both people and fictional characters who let the world see their inner child, sometimes erroneously reducing them to such labels as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. So what would happen if we vocally cultivated spontaneity, creativity, and laughter alongside confidence and intellect?

Well, I can tell you right now, there’d be a lot more people in the world wearing dinosaurs in their hair. 

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3 thoughts on “Of Childish Things

  1. Just so you know that you don’t have to abondon all things fanciful, even in the the most staid of business settings (health insurance): I was put in charge of explaining what my analytical group did to the rest of the division. So, what did I come up with? DATA FARMERS. This led to (among other things) posters on the growth cycle of data and small ‘seed envelopes’, each decorated with a picture of a happy vegetable, the name of one of our data initiatives, and filled with mini M&Ms. Someone looking at the display said “You should do this for a living.” I asked “And exactly what would ‘THIS’ be?” Stay whimiscal, my friend.

  2. The reason I find the trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl offensive is not that it uses childlike wonder–it’s that it misuses it. It takes a wonderful attitude about the world and cheapens it into a cheesy lesson that people are “rightly” reluctant to learn (and did I mention it’s a girls-only phenomenon? Wonder is exclusively feminine now). Hollywood may be trying to send the message that more people should appreciate everything, but their role models come off as spacey and contemptible, and oh, so hateable.

    In other, less derogatory, news, being manic is so fun and you and I should bounce around in a field or something. :]

    • Yeah, spot-on! I think the implications of MPDGs are complex enough that I can’t really do them justice in here, hence the passing reference.

      Yes, please c:

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