Saturday, November 23, 2013

Photo A Day, Day 23: Simplicity

Remember during “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” when all the kids went trick-or-treating and listed all the great treats they got, then Charlie Brown said, “I got a rock”? We’re supposed to feel bad for poor old Charlie Brown, but when I think about most of the kids I know, they would think a rock was pretty cool. Kids love simple things.

Don’t get me wrong, my kids love toys that talk and move and make noise and light up and require batteries. They would both spend every day playing on my computer or my Kindle Fire if I would let them. But they can both spend an entire day playing with nothing but rocks and sticks and random bits of trash that they’ve found lying around somewhere, too. For example, my daughter has spent at least two hours over the course of the day today playing with this box. 

She puts things into it; she takes things out of it. She opens it; she closes it. She peeks inside to be sure that what she put in is still there. She trots it around to anyone else in the area and shows it to them. Occasionally she even hands it to them ceremoniously, announcing very solemnly, “Present for you.” Sometimes she informs her stuffed monkey, “Look, EE, box!” EE is a frequent resident of the box, too. She will often pack EE inside and then bring me the box and, with a twinkle in her eye, shout in a voice of mock horror, “Mama!!! EE gone. GONE!!!” And when I react with similar horror, she explodes into giggles, opens the box and says, “Mama, EE here! EE okay!”

The generic simplicity of a box gives it so many more possibilities than a toy that is specifically something. A cool toy pirate ship with a Jolly Roger flag that goes up and down and cannons that shoot Nerf balls and a loudspeaker that shouts, “Ahoy, mateys!” is fun and exciting, but it will never be any more or any less than a pirate ship. A big box, however, can be a pirate ship OR a rocket to Mars OR a speeding racecar OR a tent in the middle of a desert OR anything else a child’s imagination can come up with. Simplicity equals potential.

I think that’s why adult human beings are fascinated with children: because they have so much potential. The older a child gets, the more determined his path in life becomes. Every experience he has points him more specifically in a certain direction. Whenever he learns something new about himself, he becomes just a tiny bit limited by that knowledge. But a very young child, in his simplicity of thought and experience and education, is a beautifully blank slate on which can be written anything. If only we adults could have such simplicity!

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