Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. ~Mark Twain
Have you met a person recently that was 40something or 50something and you can totally picture what they were like as 8? And have you met people that you feel have been OLD forever - like straight-from-the-womb old? Well, Christopher Noxon has done a bit of theorizing, interviewing and research on this and has rolled it into a wonderful book called Rejuvenile.
Christopher believes that we are regaining our ability to play, to experience and to not be boxed in by life. I say regaining because Christopher also posits, that it's only been the last 100 years that people have increasingly allowed themselves to be pushed into an "adult" form at the expense of all else.
Rejuvenile is a book that explains why we all might want to play kickball at 40 more than we want to sit inside and wax nostalgic about lost youth. Youth, it turns out, is not so much lost as given away. Increasingly, we are becoming more and more unwilling to give that away.
(If you can't see the mind map in your feed, please go to the actual blog post)
As you can see in the concepts, Play is a major portion of Rejuvenile. The roles of play are varied and rather exciting. So let's discuss that first:
Play is what keeps us young. Why? Because play, by its very nature is free of guilt, free of morose obligation, life-affirming, and ... pleasurable. For me, play helps me recharge and, therefore, I try to set up even my professional relationships in a playful manner.
One of my business partners, who is a very large multinational firm, insist on the personal relationship first, the professional relationship second. I was talking to one of them and they essentially said, "I understand you are great at what you do, now ... why should we be friends?"
In business they call this "building relationships", which is stodgy business talk for "are you fun to play with?" The questions are less focused on "How efficient is your organization" and more "how much will you make me laugh?"
And Noxon catches your next obvious question... "You mean that being competent no longer matters?" No, it does. We are still adults and part of being adults is understanding the nature of responsibility.
But being a good Rejuvenile Adult is learning that responsibility neither buries nor jails you.
Play is central to this. When you are in jail (when I was a kid it was called "being grounded") you cannot play. Post-industrial age adults were self-jailed in Victorian values that rewarded stoic demeanor and pooh-poohed expressiveness.
Noxon contends, this created a false distance between adults and children which may well have led to the issues we've seen in the last 30 years with the dissolution of the family. Children of stodgy households never knew what growing up with a cohesive family was like. In the service of order, the Victorian era effectively dismantled itself.
Play is central to most of the parents I know. They often play with their kids, share directly in their imaginings and role playings, and get a lot from it personally. Rather than their kids aging them, they are actually sustaining them. How exciting!
More than a handful of redefinition comes from Rejuvenile. We see alterations of the concepts of Maturity, Adulthood, Parenthood, Hierarchy, and Discipline.
What I see in Noxon's writing is the softening of the need for authoritarian rule (which requires distance, alienation and fear as central elements of power) and a rise of social discipline (which requires respect, accountability, and problem solving). Kids still understand the natural authority of the parent, but the parent need not rule in an authoritarian way.
I have more than a few inspirations from this book. I've already discussed the energy one in the post linked to above. But there are a few others in the mind map that I'll try to roll into one or two paragraphs.
Kids naturally seem to want to help and have a willingness to fail (no this isn't universal, nothing is). As we get older, our desire to help is often tempered by our load of responsibility and our willingness to fail is diminished by our growing awareness of our mortality. We look at our parents invariably see the realization of some fear of adulthood we don't want to repeat.
But, it seems to me, our parents were always older than us. So we always looked at them as "old". We don't give them credit for their level of play or for the hard decisions they had to make. So we are often reacting to stereotypes we have subjected our parents to, rather than the human beings that are actually our parents.
What's funny is that since their inception Cartoons have seemed to bridge this gap. Until his death, my Grandfather was crazy for Loony Toons. Now, when you turn on Cartoon Network, you see age straddling cartoons like Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends. In one episode, Bloo is kidnapped and forced to be a spokes-imaginary-friend for a deodorant stick company. During that episode, there are two TV announcers that look like Mary Tyler Moore and Ted Knight. The character that looks like Ted named "Todd" and is constantly being called "Ted", to which he replied "It's Todd!" - A mirroring of Ted Knight's Ted Baxter character's recurring line on the Mary Tyler Moore show 30 years ago.
So, I'm very thankful for Amazon's little recommendation algorithm for recommending Rejuvenile to me. I tried to set up a coffee with Christopher when I was in Los Angeles last weekend and he graciously accepted, but with the caveat that we'd need to hook up on the fly because he was going to birthday parties and other events with the kids. So, alas, we didn't get together on that trip.
But I'm certain we'll find a time to play together later.
Rejuvenile gets a "Highly Recommended" from me. I'm certain it will join the ranks of the often-referenced in the Evolving Web blog.
Read: 27 May to 5 June 2007
Where: San Jose, Seattle, San Marcos, and Palm Springs
Between: The Penultimate Truth and The Starfish and The Spider
Blogged at Caffe Keffa in Seattle, Washington using Windows Live Writer.