I was watching Television last night and something occurred to me. When we were kids toys became more than just a diversion they became a promise. Stuffed toys, dolls, action figures, they all held your deepest fears secret and comforted you in a way no living thing could. They were ever ready playmates and best friends. With your favorite toy you were invincible, there was nothing you couldn’t accomplish or survive. The daily world was tolerable knowing you had that waiting at the end of an emotionally taxing day.
The promise was eternal love and friendship. The promise was a lie.
As an adult I sit and watch advertisements for St. Judes’, feeling genuine empathy for those poor kids, knowing many of them will have their young lives tragically cut short in a way no toy could ever stop. Those security blankets we held as children are replaced by jadedness, ennui, drugs, alcohol and other mental illnesses. This is encouraged by our society. Think about how much money is spent repairing psychological damage that is actually promoted by “growing up”. At some point most of us are shamed into giving up those “childish things” by our peers, adults, and the media in general.
I want that back. I want to feel as though I will not die again. I want to wake on Christmas morning full of wonder at what I might get from Santa, instead of worrying if I will wake on Christmas morning. I am sick of alarm clocks and cars. Tired of paying bills and worrying about which crooked politician is the least dishonest. I want to be surprised again, to have everything I know disproved by new experiences. I can never have a great day because something or someone always comes and throws pee in my face. At least once a day I worry about having cancer or a heart attack. What a waste of time that is.
Am I being foolish? I don’t care.
So when I read or hear someone bashing escapism I get a little annoyed. This life is brutal and short, we all know this. If I want to spend a few hours pretending I am someone else then what of it? If there is nothing else awesome going on around you that you can enjoy, why not dream it?
I had a good childhood as most people reckon. I spent my youth wandering the woods hunting for Gnomes and fairies of the Brothers Grimm variety. I wished I could live in the Hundred Acre Wood. I wanted to awake in Middle Earth and go see Smog. Would you have rather had me sipping coffee and pretending to be a hipster at eight years old? Well I am an adult now with two kids of my own and you know what? I still want to explore Middle Earth, I still keep one eye open when I am near woods in hopes of glimpsing one of the wee folk. Hoping that something can shatter this wall around me.
Imagination is one of the greatest things we have as thinking beings. Opposable thumbs? A fluke. Useless without the ability to think, to dream. Imagination must be valuable, because everyone wants to take it away.
When I look at my children sometimes I worry that I am raising little adults (said in the most sneering way you can imagine). I am constantly guarding that most precious core of enthusiasm, the very wellspring of human invention and dreams. I will let my daughter and son enjoy what they enjoy as long as I can. One of the greatest legacies of my mother was the lengths she went to get me to continue believing in Santa Clause. I used to think it didn’t work but now…I realize it did. I don’t think a bearded man slides down my chimney mind you, but I do feel the spirit of the myth deep inside my soul.
Let our children dream as long as we can, and maybe we should dream as well.