There is an ugly side to human culture that says once we reach a certain age, or level of maturity that we must throw away the things we enjoyed as children. This to me it is an unhealthy attitude. We may leave behind certain things as we reach maturity, but more often we bastardize our childhood by refusing to integrate who we were yesterday with who we are today. Rather than grow up, instead we violently reject the child we once were. We move sideways and plateau, rather than forwards and evolve.
Our childhood is part of our personal history, our personal story, and part of who we are today. To ignore or turn our back on what we enjoyed as children, teenagers or young adults is disrespectful to the person we were yesterday. It is a kind of ugly self-loathing and judgement on that person that says “what you enjoyed was worthless and meaningless, and has no relevance to the me I am today”.
Often people when reaching adulthood will throw things away that they love or stop indulging their passions and hobbies to conform to imagined social norms, or because they don’t expect to be taken seriously as adults if they still have any of their possessions from when they were a child.
I think of people who got rid of their old video games or action figures or comics because it was not considered “adult” to have such things, or their new girlfriend didn’t like “that stuff” so they got rid of it. Often regretting what they did and re-acquiring in their twenties what they gave away in their teens year so they could “grow up”. It’s fine to do that, some folks lose interest in those things and it’s perfectly normal to move on to other interests and hobbies.
This sort of behavior can also be however an attempt to conform to social norms, a violent rejection of the child within us. Another possibility is that of the adult who lives in a state of arrested development, who refuses to actually grow up and be responsible for themselves, and refuses to actually ever leave childhood, bouncing around from one co-dependent relationship to another and expecting other people to satisfy their needs, with no real effort of their own to mature. Some things are best left behind in childhood, while other things are good to carry with us, our passion and creativity are never something to leave behind.
Both models are extremes, we need to Grow Up, but growing up means growing and expanding, not withdrawing and contracting or rejecting any part of our selves.
On another level, throwing out yesterdays culture and fun is to say that cool characters, works of fiction and toys have no place in the life of an adult, and have no further refined meanings or deeper resonance in life than the gross meaning of a plastic toy that is “fun” or a comic book or kids movie that is “entertaining”. To be fair the majority of entertainment is vapid, shallow and pointless. But the world we live in today is far more intelligent at all levels (TV, Film, Literature, Video Games) than say the world of the 1940s
One of my favourite things in life, an object to be specific is a toy. It feels silly to even say so, but it is true.
The object is a Transformer toy that my deceased Grandfather Jack Willetts gave to me when I was a kid. It is my all time favourite toy, it transforms from a two headed dragon into a robot and it looks equally good in both robot and dragon mode. Most transformers only look good as either the vehicle or as the robot, few look good in both modes.
This aesthetic appeal was something that appealed to me when I was a kid and even now as an adult. A good design is a good design. Another thing I like about this toy is it was in one of the first post Generation-1 wave of Transformers toys that were not based on the cartoon characters. It meant the character was entirely new, and the personality of the character was not fleshed out, which means to a kid you can imagine any personality you like for the character.
On one level, I know the toy is just a cheap piece of plastic based around a cartoon that was basically made to sell toys to kids for the purpose of corporate profit.
But on another level that cheap piece of plastic is a direct link to my deceased Grandfather. I can’t look at it, or play with it without thinking of him, and remember the good times we shared, and how he encouraged me as a kid to read comics by buying me my first Ninja Turtle and Alf comics. Nobody else in my life ever bought me comics when I was a kid, and I will always be grateful, because without those first comics my passion for superheroes would have never developed, and this blog would not exist.
When I was a kid, my grandfather was one of the coolest guys in the world, he didn’t talk down to me, he bought me the comics of my choice and I always enjoyed just hanging out with him no matter what he was doing. He loved to bet on horse races, he loved Rugby and Cricket and gardening. His garden won several local competitions, you have never seen a lawn as neat as my Grandfathers lawn, it was immaculate, that lawn got more care and attention than a Kardashian’s wobbly ass on a magazine cover.
In ancient times, wisdom would be passed down from generation to generation (well I hope wisdom was passed on, I guess some bullshit got passed on along with the good stuff). Elders were loved, respected and revered as those who were wiser than us. Sacred objects had meaning, in that they may be passed to descendants, and something of the spirit of the person embodies that object. Whether you take that meaning as literal or metaphoric really doesn’t matter. The emotional experience is basically the same either way. Reality is always different for everyone, and we like to Romanticise all aspects of culture.
Cold hard dead objects made of matter, composed of atoms have emotional significance to us when passed on from a loved one. The watch that was sent back from someone’s father or husband from the front line, a rifle or hunting knife passed from father to son, son to grandson, an antique wedding ring passed from mother to daughter, a photo of relatives no longer with us, or a cheap plastic toy loaded with memories.
There are no sacred objects, and yet any object is sacred if it has deep personal meaning to us. All objects are made of matter, or atoms, and any significance or power we imbue them with exists only in our minds, not in the object itself.
We can enjoy our sacred objects and need not make them into Idols
When we throw culture and tradition out the window, and cease to respect our elders, we lose a little something. It is indefinable. Call it unique story, call it wisdom tradition, call it passing down basic information critical to survive in the world or call it feeling a deep inner sense of satisfaction at knowing your place in the world and grand scheme of things. Call it knowing that you and Life are one and the same, that you are in alignment with unseen forces, that you matter, that you have purpose and infinite dimensions to who and what you are. Call it intuition or gut feeling or whatever you like. But we lost part of ourselves and our communal nature when we try to go it alone in life, and reject everything that has come before our time.
Is it wise to simply throw all that away? Is it wise to explain away our emotional and intellectual satisfaction in life as basically meaningless? Is it wise to say we know it all and don’t need to learn anything new, because we have evolved, or because we are a “civilized” modern society? If we are really so smart and wise, why do so many of us starve to death on a daily basis? Why do we keep murdering each other for resources and land? Why do so many of us feel ashamed just to be alive? Why do so many of us have this emptiness inside us that we cannot seem to fill, no matter what we do? A genuine need that goes unaddressed, and unfulfilled as our collective intelligence has consistently failed to even identify what it is that actually satisfies our heart of hearts.
I don’t have the solution to any of those things, and forgive this digression from talking about “stuff”. I’m stepping down from my Invisible Pantomime Highhorse. What I’m saying from my heart to yours is that we need personal connection, with others and with ourselves and with our own personal history. It’s not selfish to be who you are, and enjoy what you enjoy without trying to make some soft of “excuse” for it.
We can enjoy the younger self that we were, while also continuing to grow and evolve as responsible individuals. What I’m saying is, don’t ever feel embarrassed to like what you like. I remember being teased in high school for reading “comic books”, but I never stopped reading them, despite how painful it was being teased. Now look at today, people flock to the box office to see Superhero films, likely some of the same people who teased me for being into Superheroes. Well the Hats on the other Foot now childhood jerks!
For most people, what we like doesn’t really change a whole lot in our lifetimes. I liked Batman, Ninja Turtles and Transformers when I was a kid – and it’s still what I enjoy today. If anything, I enjoy those characters their fiction and lore even MORE than when I was a kid.
I still have the basic joy of a 8-10 year old boy who loves action movies and superhero cartoons and comics, but combined with a larger mature perspective where I can appreciate the people who CREATED those worlds, who Imagineered them into existence. The people who animated the shows, drew the comics, designed the toys, voiced the characters. The values that went into those characters that influenced me for the better, and the inspiration today I draw from those characters and all the hard work that went into making them so special I enjoy and appreciate at a much deeper level.
Meanwhile, despite being able to string a sentence or two together – I am the most overly-enthusiastic MAN-CHILD you could ever meet. I’m painfully aware of it. I really have no choice but to embrace it. I still also develop other characteristics, skills and abilities as an “adult” EXP +1200, INT +2 MIGHT +5, LUCK +1 – and most folks would say I am a pretty responsible person.
But at a basic level if you show me a Robot Dinosaur that shoots frikkin Neon Laser Beams from its eyes – well then I am eight years old again instantly. I don’t have any choice in the matter.
I love Dinosaurs and Robots and sci-fi pew pew Lazer Beams and I’m foaming at the mouth even thinking of such things. That is not going to change.
At age 37 – I am still a shy introvert who is somewhat socially retarded. I’ve learnt to embrace the best parts of myself, and not deny any of my various flaws or short comings as a human being which include: Hulk like rage, Anxiety, sometimes mild Depression, a Need to always keep Talking and have the last word instead of Shutting Up.
All of that is part of Who I Am, it’s not going away. I don’t need to be “Fixed”. I’m not broken and I legitimately love the person I am today, and the things that I enjoy, my passions are a part of me, my heritage and inspire me daily. It wasn’t always like that, self-loathing was my companion for about half of my life so far. At some point, I stopped listening to any of that nonsensical bullshit people try to put you down with, I silenced that Inner Critic permanently, choke slammed that mother fucker right through the wrestling ring floor and sent them straight to hell.
My OCD “never shuts the fuck up” borderline MANIA for all things fantasy, sci-fi, superheroes etc I turn into blogs and articles. Instead of boring people to death in real life, I can bore them to death in the digital domain. And if anyone doesn’t like it, well they can stop reading and walk away at any time- makes no difference to me.
This is the part where the article ends and I have nothing more to say. No summary or Zen-like wisdom. Wax the car maybe?
I graduated from the Miyagi school of Kung-Foolery. All I learnt there was to enjoy what you enjoy, be who you are and don’t ever apologize to anyone, or try to change yourself to suit them. Or ever shut the fuck up when you’ve got something worthwhile to say about what you stand for in life, the people you love and are responsible for. Whatever your passions and hobbies are enjoy them, let them inspire you – but don’t let them hold you back either from doing whatever truly matters to you.