I enjoy the English language because the words come from so many interesting places and traditions. Consider the phrase “are you kidding me?” The word kidding refers to engaging in joking and horseplay as in “kidding around.” The root word kid refers to young goats and children. Kidding implies playful intentions. Being more “kid like” can also reduce stress and provide balance from our more serious pursuits.
As a child, my friends and I found plenty of time for horseplay.
That included wrapping each other up in tape, climbing trees, food fights, making wine out of grape juice, burning insects with a magnifying glass, exploring anywhere that was off limits, making forts, faking farts, sneaking out at night as Ninja warriors, and that was on Monday.
Some of my favorite memories as a boy involved imaginary battles with Nazis, Indians, vampires, werewolves, aliens, kid-eating dinosaurs, and other scary things we encountered in movies, television shows, books, and comics. Of course we always won these tussles in our make believe world.
Part of my upbringing also involved cultural stereotypes where the clever and moral white man was stronger and smarter than everyone else (think John Wayne). My early sense of American exceptionalism took a hit when I read Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee and learned the real story about how the West was won. I’ve been reconciling American myth making ever since.
The varnished version of American History has fueled my interest in serious inquiry. Our history would serve us better if we moved beyond the mythology of a small number of presidents to consider the complexity of issues, events, and social change. The consequence of down playing less favorable aspects of our national story is evident when you listen to adults making up history to assert their ideology. Our grandchildren are likely to encounter two versions of our history; one that focuses on our divinely superior nature, and a more modest version based on what actually happened.
The most complete history book I’ve read about America is A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. An American bomber pilot in World War II, Zinn addresses less flattering chapters of our story related to the struggle of poor people, farmers, union workers, women, minorities, and children.
Reflecting on the mythical and authentic past is a reminder of why being playful is important to adults. We need to take breaks from the misinformation, hype, and stress that define our culture. Horseplay and humor in general can balance out life’s drama. How else can we benefit from being more kid like in this time called now? How about being in the present moment and enjoying little things that are easy to take for granted?
I think of nature when I consider these questions. I still marvel to see a spider weaving its web or a woodpecker hunting for insects in a tall tree. I noticed a swallowtail butterfly the other day spending 15 minutes inspecting most of our yard before finding a spot to rest. I’ve also been monitoring a green anole (lizard) the past week, which is living in a bucket with about three inches of water. I was trying to determine if the artificial pool was a trap or a convenient habitat. I finally noticed small mosquito larval swimming about, so the structure is providing the anole with food.
I completed the Florida Master Naturalist Program through the University of Florida in June. Studying ecology in the classroom and at many area preserves took me back to my childhood memories in Pennsylvania searching the woods for anything that crawled, hopped, or slithered. Although I’m more familiar with the species of wildlife and habitat I encounter today, my enjoyment of nature has remained constant since childhood. Someday, I plan to live in a cabin in the woods writing books, while appreciating nature and taking care of pets and plants.
Paying attention to nature has afforded me recent encounters with baby possums, baby raccoons, black racer snakes, and many species of birds, amphibians, and insects.
Noticing the subtle nuances of wildlife requires patience, and it’s always time well spent.
Invest a half day this month to visit one of your area preserves or parks to see how many species of life you can notice. Take a pair of binoculars, a wildlife guide, and your childlike enthusiasm to enrich your experience. Why do these particular species live here and why does it matter? These are good questions for children and adults alike.
Randy owns Triple 3 Marketing. He’s a long term advocate for positive change, having owned community magazines since 1999. Randy sold Positive Change Media in April 2009 and took a year off before launching Triple 3 Marketing. In addition to helping business owners, he also provides private coaching. Randy has a masters degree in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin at Madison where he studied persuasion and attitude change. Contact Randy at firstname.lastname@example.org.