Sunday, October 16, 2011

Good Pirates And Flying Ponies

The only way for adults to enter into the world that children create is on our knees; crawling unashamedly on all-fours, or scooting on our bottoms. 

It's a place where the people you find there tell you, "I'm a good pirate," or "This pony can fly" and you must not only take them at their word . . .

. . . but join them in declaring your place in the world as well, saying perhaps, "I'm the princess." And when someone says, "No, you can't be a princess because you're a boy," you defend yourself by saying, "But I want to be a princess," and everything is fine with a shrug; a better world by far than the one in which we walk around on our feet, begrudging others their own truths.

The stale old ways that generations have made for us are here turned on their heads. It's a place where work is play, play is work, and daring rescues are really not so rare.

Our houses and towns and ships and islands ebb like waking dreams from one to another and back again, often standing solidly as everything at once, proving to us that the vast experience about physical reality we've collected over decades, prized and clung to, is perhaps not to be valued too highly. 

Someone recently complained to me that "fairy tales are not real at all," but I beg to differ, especially when I find myself knelt into this place where pumpkins really do become carriages.

It's laziness and lethargy to stand above this place, peering down like some sort of all-knowing god, correcting and judging and warning. And that's far too often all we do, we adults, acting as if we've nothing new to learn, like the stereotypical ugly tourist complaining those German natives are ignorant about their liquid bread or the Chinese must be taught to use more butter in their cuisine.

No, our powers are virtually useless here, unless it's the kinetic one of stepping in clumsily and wrecking the place.

And that's really not so impressive after all because any one of the people, no matter how small, could, should they chose, start kicking and wailing and breaking things down. But they also have the concentrated power of self-control, empathy, and understanding, which most often overrides that urge into which too many of us adults, too often, thoughtlessly give. You might think it's the other way around, that it's the children who don't know how to behave with the other people, but look, get down on your knees, and you'll see that you are wrong.

Oh it's a real place all right, but you need to know how to get there and how to behave.

Your passport is an open mind and a bended knee . . .

. . . and a recognition that you are a visitor here, where things stand on their heads, and your job is to learn from these good pirates and flying ponies who have everything to teach you.

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Mullin Avenue Workshop said...

Tom, THANK YOU!!!!!
I love this post today, with the invitation to kneel down and play, and learn.
This is just the inspiration I need for my new week.
The photos, and commentary are lovely, and of course how great to see the pumpkins being used in play.

Everything you wrote here rings with truth!

Life with Kaishon said...

The world of children is a magical place indeed. My very favorite one : )

Barbara said...

What a wonderful post! I think it is very easy for adults to slip into the all powerful role. If only we could remember more often to enter the child's world respectfully and on their terms joining in their learning and fun. Thanks for the reminder.


Emily said...

Wonderful post. Can you talk about your daily clean-up of the classroom, i.e. how do you get those kiddos to help when it is time?

Julia Deering said...

I know how elusive this magical world of imaginative play can be - to get down there with them and be involved is so wonderful - but I know how easily grown-ups can unintentionally break the spell and the flow. Now my kids are 5 and 6, I try to let them enter into this kind of fabulous playing all by themselves. It's a joy to listen in to their dialogue and the crazy situations of their characters. I cherish them playing like this - I don't know how long they'll want or be able to do it. Here they are just a while back playing Pet Shops...

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