It’s grown shorter in recent years – sometimes cynical, sometimes comical and sometimes bland – but I keep working on it. The inspiration for berevity came to me at a petrol station. I managed to fill my old car’s tank with super deluxe, high-octane go-juice. My old hoopy couldn’t handle it and got the willies – kept sputtering out at intersections and burping going down hill. I understood. My mind gets like that from time to time. Too much high-content information, and I get the existential willies. I keep sputtering out at intersections where life’s choices must be made and I either don’t know enough or know too much.
I realised then that I already know most of what’s necessary to live a meaningful life – that it isn’t all that complicated. I know it and I have known it for a long, long time. Living it – well, that’s another matter.
All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpit at pre School. These are the things I learned:
Don't hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don't take things that aren't yours.
Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
Goldfish and cats and dogs and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.
Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.
Take any of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we - the whole world - had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had a basic policy to always put thing back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.
And it is still true, no matter how old you are - when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.
Giants, Wizards and Dwarfs was the game to play.
My friend, Rae and I were recently left in charge of about 20 children – 6 and 7 year olds – at the local after school care centre while their parents were meeting with the staff. We mustered our troops in the main room and explained the game. It’s sort of like a large-scale version of Rock, Paper and Scissors, and involves some intellectual decision-making. But the real purpose of the game is to make a lot of noise and run around chasing people until nobody knows which side you are on or who won.
Organizing a roomful of wired up schoolies into three teams, explaining the rules of the game, achieving consensus on group identity – all this is no mean accomplishment, but we did it and were ready to go.
The excitement of the chase had reached a critical mass. I yelled out: “You have to decide NOW which you are – a giant, a wizard or a dwarf!”
While the groups huddled in frenzied, whispered consultation, a tug came at my jeans. A small girl stands there looking up and asks in a small, concerned voice, “Where do the mermaids stand?”
Where do the mermaids stand?????????
A long pause. A very long pause. “Where do the mermaids stand?” says I.
“Yes. I’m a mermaid.”
“There are no such things as mermaids.”
“Yes there are. I am one.”
She did not relate to being a giant, a wizard or a dwarf. She knew her category. Mermaid. She was not about to leave the game and go over and stand against the wall where the losers would stand. She intended to participate, wherever mermaids fit into the scheme of things. Without giving up dignity or identity. She took it for granted that there was a place for Mermaids and that I would know just where.
Well, where DO the mermaids stand? All the ‘mermaids’ – all those who are different, who do not fit into the norm and who do not accept the available boxes and pigeonholes?
What was my answer at the moment? Every once in a while I say the right thing. “The mermaid stands right here by the Queen of the Sea!” says I.
So we stood there hand in hand reviewing the troops of Wizards and Giants and Dwarfs as they ran around in total madness.
It’s not true, by the way, that mermaids don’t exist.
I know at least one personally. I held her hand.