Last week I watched a calf being born. It was really cool circle of life-type shit, where I could envisage the little blighter becoming my spaghetti bolognese in a few years time. With me were my wife, who also found it amazing, and my kids, who were far more blasé about it. They’re seven and three and didn’t find it nearly as compelling as an episode of Adventure Time.
So it occurred to me that we often hold up children’s ability to see the wonder in everything like it’s some special super-power that we should all aspire to. They see some marmite on toast and gasp, ‘Wow!’ and we think, ‘Shit, I am such a cold, unfeeling, dead-inside bastard that I cannot see the wonder in a slice of marmite on toast. And my God, there is so much wonder in a slice of marmite on toast. How the hell do they extract that black goop from yeast? Who had that idea? And the toaster – so incredible. Works every time to heat up my bread. Fucking amazing.’
Anyway, kids get amazed at everything and we don’t, so the cliché goes. But actually adults get amazed at waaaaaaaay more things than kids.
When I take my son to see Arsenal play I get a ton more out of it, and find it much more amazing because I have a shitload of context with which to make eleven overpaid blokes running around after a ball seem far more incredible that it first appears. All the preparation it takes to make a big game of football happen, the wages, the transport, the negotiations with huge organisations, the way a run down the channel can be a really clever way of making the most of the false nine in the hole etc.
My son has no idea about any of that, but I do, and as a consequence I find much more amazement in that situation than he does. Same with the art in an art gallery. Sure, he loves those McDonalds carvings the Chapmans did that are in Tate Britain (check them out, they’re very cool) because they’re kind of funny, but I see the Hamburglar-as-Jesus one and find it much funnier because of all the Jesus shit in my head. I like it in the way Jackson does, but I also like it in a million other ways that all fill my head at the same time.
Sure, the first experience of something is usually far more affecting than the 109th time, and in that way the kids have the upper hand, but we can find the layers that are invisible to those without sufficient context. To a kid a nice coat is a nice coat, but for a grown up it might have some great stitching or a way of working with a shirt that is just right for 2013. Hitting a ball into a small hole from far away might impress a six-year-old, but when it’s the winning shot on the final hole of the Ryder cup he’s going to be missing out on a whole lot of other stuff. Stevie Wonder’s music is the best, but until you know he wrote and performed it blind and at fifteen years old, Uptight is only 10% as impressive as it could be.
Where is this going? Not sure, but it made me realise that we can beat ourselves up for all sorts of bullshit that really isn’t there. A little more thought and you might realise that you are more incredible than you thought, and certainly much better than some snot-nosed little kid who goes ‘Ooooooh!’ just because he’s seen a pigeon.