Remember what it was like to be a child, running around without a single care or concern? Though it wasn’t too long ago, it sometimes feels as if it were another lifetime altogether, doesn’t it? It’s hard to imagine that life could ever have been so pure and simple, so full of happiness and imagination.
What happens to that carefree sense of wonder as we grow older?
It seems most of us, as we begin to enter adulthood, simply start listening to society’s message that we need to stop goofing around and get serious with our lives. We’re schooled into believing that we need to abandon our childlike tendencies and start living up to our culture’s ideals of success – chasing things like fame, status and wealth. Then, without even realizing it, our priorities start to re-order themselves around these expectations and we can easily lose sight of our true passions.
The notion that adults must be serious and productive all the time, however, is untrue. As the mystic Thomas Merton once wrote, it is, in fact, quite regrettable to get too caught up in our work and responsibilities: “What is serious to men is often trivial in the eyes of God; what in God might appear to us as ‘play’ is perhaps what He himself takes most seriously.”
Thus, what could be more important than learning to embrace our inner child and reclaiming a sense of play? It might feel silly at first, but pursuing the things that made us come alive as children and having fun for the sake of having fun actually allows us to better connect with both what is in us and what is around us.
My little sister is a great example of this. As a kid, she used to cook dinner with my mom each night while pretending that they were filming a cooking show. She commented on all the food as they prepared it, and even wore a chef’s hat. For most adults, cooking can be become a routine obligation, but looking at it through the perspective of a child reminds us to be present in the moment and to simply celebrate life as it is, rather than getting caught up in how we wish it was.
So, whatever your passion is, whether it lies in cooking, biking, creating art, singing, dancing, or just being out in nature … pursue it! Rediscover that love and the authenticity of your childhood will be reborn. As author Roald Dahl put it: “A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.”
How can you reclaim a sense of ‘play’ in your life?