There was a post yesterday (10/31/14) on the Facebook Page “Humans of New York” where a gentleman was describing the loss of childhood wonder he said, “My happiest moments were way back in childhood. Everything was magical back then. All children are in a constant state of awe and everything is fantastic to them, but then the magical feeling dissipates and reality creeps in.” the interviewer asked “When was the last time you felt that magical feeling?”
“Ha! Not since I’ve been an adult, that’s for sure.”
What happens to all that wonder and to the thrill of discovery?
First, I would like to mention that not everyone had a happy, wonder-filled childhood. Those of us who were fortunate enough to experience it, have wonderful memories of those times.
Whether or not you had a happy childhood the everyday stresses of living, paying the bills, going to work, and having little time for oneself can all add up to exhaustion and disillusionment. I think there are three prime drivers of misery in our culture— competition, acquisition and consumption.
As a society we are told that we need more, better, faster, shinier, newer, and better everything. What we have–should never, ever—be enough. We have to buy the newest model and if we don’t have the cash we should buy it on credit. Now.
We want everything immediately, and if we have to wait for it, or put some effort into getting it, it’s not worth it. We spend much of our time on devices, plugged in to the internet, computer, phone, I pad, gaming systems, televisions, entertainment on demand, Net Flicks, and on and on. Even blogging…..like now.
Don’t get me wrong, I use technology every day and I am grateful for the opportunities it provides me to learn, grow and connect with the world. However, like too much of any good thing, it can sap the life out of you. For those of us 50 or over, we did not grow up with the internet, cell phones, cable TV, gaming systems or personal computers.
What was it about childhood that was so wondrous? It was EXPERIENCES, NOT THINGS.
I would like to offer three concepts for reactivation of experiences of joy and wonder for your consideration.
Imagination, Communication and the Natural World. Have you seen the FB/ You Tube video of the little girl running in her first rain? If you haven’t take a look http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxmmvHsDeuI
This is the wonder of childhood. Maybe we think we are too old for nature firsts, but give it a try. You’ve already seen rain, but when was the last time you purposefully took a walk in the rain, with out an umbrella…..? Go to a park and lie under a tree and took at the canopy and the sky, listen to your favorite music-or just listen to the wind and the sounds around you. Breathe in the scents of fresh cut grass, or central park after a rain, or piney woods, the beach, or a rose. Leave your phone at home, or turn it off if you must bring it!
Go for a hike, sit on the top of a hill and just be there. We have to stop rushing around and take time to look at the sunset, the stars. Make a plan, go somewhere you can be away from city lights and spend a night star gazing. There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches on planet Earth!!!! Look up from your daily grind and contemplate that one for a while! How it all came to be and the enormity of the expanse of the universe should give you at least a twinkle of the wonder of the unknown and the unanswerable questions about life and our place in it. It is an adult equivalent to ” Daddy where is up? Why is the sky blue? Where do we go when we die?”
You see, a sense of wonder is, I think, one of scale and experience. When you were a child, everything was new. But each day as you grew, each experience you had the day before was no longer new, but known. The opportunity to have new experiences did not go away…. we just got distracted by daily life. School and formal learning became the path to new discoveries, while most often, imagination was relegated to a lesser function. Re-activate your imagination. Do it by yourself, with your kids, with your grandkids. Do something creative. It doesn’t matter what. The arts, music, writing, pretend, dress-up, and so on….choose one.
There are new experiences of the psyche, the soul, the cosmos, that we have no definitive answers for. Pondering the meaning of the entire world in a flower, as the Buddah did, or all life in a mustard seed as Jesus did…will stretch your wonder capacity.
We are enslaved to the maintenance of the physical body, our homes, our bills, or food, our transportation, health care and on and on. Even Plato long ago said,
“Wars and revolutions and battles are due simply and solely to the body and desires. All wars are undertaken for the acquisition of wealth, and the reason why we have to acquire wealth is the body, because we are slaves in it’s service.”
Whether you agree with Plato or not, if we didn’t feel the need to compete with our neighbors and co workers, for a better house or car, or salary…if we didn’t need to always acquire the newest gadget, if we didn’t participate in a overly consumptive, disposable society, maybe we would have a little more time to cultivate our unexplored human potential. If we can say what we have materially, is enough…maybe we would have more time and mental energy to contemplate the beauty of natural world and life itself. A marine biologist in Maui, Hawaii told me, that humpback whales from around the globe begin the year with different song, and by the end of the migration, all the whales sing the same song, even if the pods have never met. That sparks wonder in me.
If it was our parents and families that gave us the safe loving environment to have the wonder filled experiences of our childhoods, who will do that for us now? We must hold that space for each other, person to person. Connect with people, face to face, get off your devices and truly communicate. Spend time together, conversations will take you places you never expected. You will help yourself and others along the way. Listen. Be present.
Here’s to you finding Wonder and Joyful moments in your adult lives!
“Thinking in Mythological terms helps to put you in accord with the inevitables of this vale of tears. You learn to recognize the positive values in what appear to be the negative moments and aspects of your life. The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.” Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell is one of my life’s heroes. The wisdom and insight that he gained though a lifetime of studying Mythologies from around the world has deeply influenced my thinking and perspective on life. In fact, it was his work that lead me to the grad school I am studying at, Pacifica Graduate Institute. Luckily for me they have all of his private library and archives of his personal papers!
Not everyone agrees with me regarding Joseph Campbell, usually you love him or hate him. Imagine that! In the tall Ivory towers of academia there are those who disagree with Campbell. The range of emotions begins with disgruntled scholars and runs the gamete through those who are dismissive of his theories, to down right hatred of the man. (They are, I believe, angry that he is so popular and he abandoned academia! When he found his passion and his advisors would not let him change his Ph.d. focus, he went off and followed his passion.)
Envy is a dangerous thing.
Within Mythology is the beginning of all stories. All narrative, novels, films, even the art of the pre-written cultural tradition of storytelling. It all begins with the Mythologies humans created or learned from the world around us. Mythologies give us an understanding of the world, the cosmos and our place in it.
If you haven’t read amy Campbell yet, I suggest you start with The Power of Myth or The Hero with a Thousand Faces and find your way from there. We are each heroes on our own journey to becoming fully who we can be. It is up to us to walk out the door and find the paths to follow, with passion and dedication. Each life is made of of many large and small hero journeys, and it is not all flowers and sunshine, but if you meet the hard times head on and venture into the unknown spaces, it is often there that you will find the treasure you seek.
Through mythology and it’s Archetypes, we can see that we are not alone. The course of a life has built into it– stages and rites of passage– that are both thrilling and terrifying- everyone who lives, must pass through them. It is truth of the human journey from womb to tomb. We are all in this together. The only question is, will you say yes to your adventure?
I need more time in nature. I need to make-take more time to feed my soul with the heady scents of ocean mist, warm pine, cooling eucalyptus, cabbage roses, new mown grass, and the living earth after the rain.
I need more time in nature to feel the teasing breeze, the gauntlet of wind flying down the canyon with dust for the sea, the spongy step of cool lawn, or shifting sand, hot, hurried and promising, on the way to waves; their rush and roar eternal, as I dive under the back-breaker rolling over me, to pop up, laughing and sputtering with my kids, on a day at the beach.
I need more time in nature and fewer dishes.
I need more time in nature and less cleaning.
I need more time in nature, a sky-full, a cup-full, a breath-full, a mouth-full, a heart-full a day.
I have been starved by the mundane in living.
Ah, ha! I have had an “ah, ha” moment and I wanted to share it with you in the hope that it may help you too!
It may sound simple and I’m sure you have heard it before…but I just got
“One day at a time.”
Have you really heard it, really deeply? I just did and I plan to hold on to the resounding peal of freedom it has brought to my thinking. No, I did not go to a meeting, no I do not belong to AA or OA or NA, though they all got it a long time ago, if they work their program.
Ok, let’s get to it. I have a really busy life with its fair share of stress, ranging from teenagers, my grad school demands, paying bills, relationships, and on and on. I’m no different than many modern parents and yet……I kept circling back in my mind, trying to wrestle solutions forward into my life, that don’t need to be achieved TODAY.
Even while working on one issue, I would be positing all the possible solutions to my problems, my kids problems, my family problems my financial challenges, health problems and more, all at the same time, jumping from one to the other trying to chart the best course of action in all cases. I want to help my family and myself get the most out of life and have the best experiences possible. Every mother does, well most mothers do, well I do.
I don’t know what angel whispered in my ear to change course, but this former path left me exhausted and stressed and worried, always worried. Actually, I think it was last weekend with my family. Due to a number of long circumstances that I won’t bore you with, I realized that I had to make some changes in my life. If I don’t want back pain the most pro-active thing I can do is lose weight and get in better shape. If my back doesn’t have to support so much weight, it may feel better and if my abs do half the work, that may help too. Sounds simple until…… you realize, “Oh God, I have to go on a diet.” I love food and wine…………….. Dang it.
I had made a list of all the readings, papers and projects I had to prepare by the end of the grad quarter. It was long. But I thought, well I can only get done in a day what I can get done, the rest will roll over into tomorrow, which when I get there- will be that today….or now.
This was leading to what I’m studying in Grad School- the Eternal Now… that all we have is Now, the past is gone the future doesn’t exist. Simple, you say. Yes of course all we have is now…. but really think about it. Today is now. I can do anything for one day. Today.
I can do, or follow up and take care of what must be done Today.
I can go to the gym for One day.
I can eat healthy food for One day.
I can do my reading for One day.
WOW. By breaking it all down, ALL OF IT into One day, today, now… I can focus on what must be done today. What doesn’t have to be done today, or the problem that can’t be solved today (because law school is in the fall, tuition is in the fall, the deadlines for scholarships are not TODAY) those will fall to another day, another today, but not now.
This realization has magically transformed my thinking. It doesn’t mean that I won’t spend some productive time planning or thinking about the future, but I will spend more time in the now and focus on each day as it is and with what can be done.
I can do anything for one day, after all one day is a very short time to be on a nutritional and exercise plan. I am going to seriously work on taking life one day at a time, and live in the now. Every day I wake up and say, I can go to the gym for one day, today is only one day . Get the idea?
A thousand pounds of worry and “what if” just dropped off my back, won’t you join me?