“Supreme childishness in the name of “creativity”. The mind boggles.” I had this come in as a comment over on the Hopeless, Maine blog recently, and I’ve been reflecting both on the sorrowful nature of the remark, and what to do in face of it. Obviously I agreed, because silliness, playfulness and joy are very much what that site is for and I didn’t feel inclined to respond as though I was being criticised.
It grieves me that childishness is so often used as a criticism. To see the world through a child’s eyes is a wonderful thing. To want to play and explore, to feel curious and excited – these are qualities that enrich our lives. Often as adults, under pressure to be serious about everything all the time, we lose our sense of wonder.
Then there’s the awful misunderstanding of what creativity means. What is creativity without play, without a spark of childish delight? Perhaps we should be thinking of the creativity of designing a more efficient production line or a better excuse to cover for political corruption? There are many ways of being creative, but where there is no childish innocence, no joy in the world, no desire to delight, what are we left with? Creative accounting, propaganda machines, marketing strategies…
I’d like to be more childlike. Children can be incredibly trusting, and willing to think the best of others. Especially if they’re allowed to express themselves and feel secure and comfortable. Children are incredibly imaginative, and will be fearless about exploring ideas and expressing themselves right up until adults and older children start knocking that out of them. Childish creativity comes from places of joy and wonder, from heartfelt and unfiltered responses to the world. We can teach children and help them be wiser without having to turn them into joyless adults.
For those of us who have been pressured into sacrificing our silliness, joy and wonder… it’s not a one way ticket. Delight in the world is something we can create together, and we can support each other in doing that. Encourage people in their joy, even if what they do makes no sense to you – so long as it doesn’t harm anyone, why not? Don’t tear people down, don’t mock them for their delight – this stuff is all pretty obvious.
The more challenging question is what to do with people like the poor soul who left the comment. How do we give each other permission to put down the grim burden of having to act like a grown up all the time? How do we free each other from the idea that we have to give up on the things we used to love in order to be proper adults? One of the many good things about being silly, is that I can be silly enough to care about people who are intent on hurting themselves, rather than doing the sensible, self-protective thing of just shrugging and leaving them to it.