We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.
– Bryan White
I love climbing trees. Some people seem to think that is a pastime reserved for young children, and when I tell people I’ve been up a tree I’ll sometimes get a comment about it being a bit immature. Of course when I ask why, there’s never an answer.
“Immature: a word boring people use to describe fun people“.
What is it about this need people have to “grow up”? To shed childlike ways and become more “adult”?
Life is about having fun and enjoying the moment. And that is a child-like approach that adults all to often forget. Too many grown ups focus on the future, or obsess about the past. As a good friend likes to say: “why so serious?“.
Granted, there may be certain aspects worth throwing aside, as Oscar Wilde says: “I’m not young enough to know everything“, but I think many child-like attitudes are worthy.
I’ve written before about the importance of having a childlike attitude of openness to your experience, where everything is novel and worthy of focus, even the small and seemingly mundane things. The problem with too many adults is that they get tunnel vision and don’t see much of the world any more. Some even get to the point where they think they know all they need and don’t grow any more.
Coming back to the climbing, I love rock climbing. People often talk about how one “should” climb, the proper techniques and so on. There is a place for that, yet there’s a professional climber who says he aspires to a child-like attitude with his climbing, where there is no right or proper way to get to the top. Rather he says it’s better to just do what comes naturally for your body. Einstein said “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education” and I think I see what he meant.
Children are more trusting, more humble, and more willing to question and learn, the latter being something which we should always be doing. Tom Stafford writes that Children are curious, and curiosity leads to exploration, which is a vital part of our development. Who would want to stop growing?! Kurt Vonnegut said, “We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different”.
Another consideration is the source of our learning. I love learning about philosophy and psychology. There are so many great sources. People sneer at some sources, like the films The Matrix and Kung Fu Panda. But why? Why limit yourself and say that one particular source of wisdom is better than another?
Only an “adult” would do that.
A most tiresome book says: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me“.
Me, I aspire to a child-like attitude in these ways.
C. S. Lewis sums up my point nicely: “Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence“.