Sir F. Chook, Inventor of Leopard Oil

Likeness captured upon a daguerrotype machine in Japan, July 1891

Lettres

Wherein the Author reflects upon certain topical & personal issues of the Day.

In Defence of Childish Things

Penned upon the 31st of January, 2012

There’s a passage from the Bible which I’ve been pondering lately – the one that runs something like “when I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” I’m not in the best position to comment on the theological implications of this quote – which I understand to compare the difference between Christian and non-Christian life to the difference between adulthood and infancy. I cannot comment on paths of enlightenment in which I have no experience, but I have been both a child and a man, and I can address the expression on its worldly merits.

“Put away childish things” is often trotted out to demonstrate the inevitable progression from youthful distractions to mature, professional, sombre sobriety (sombreity?) In this sense, I feel compelled to speak out in defence of the childish things. There’s no shortage of essays from across the past century or two describing the innate innocence, goodness, fair-mindedness, liberal rationalism, and any other number of virtues, that the author attributes to children. I must say that I find these poorly-researched. I was a thoughtless little beast as a child, as, I’m sure, were many others. I was less concerned with naively speaking truth to power than in casual violence and sausage rolls.

No, it’s the ageless applicability of the allegedly childish things that I speak for – the unguarded whimsy and sense of the delightful which are permitted in youth, but distrusted in age. These qualities may not soften every heart, but it is not adulthood alone which banishes them – indeed, for many adults, they are indispensable. Now, you may cry “Who is this junior oaf! What does he know of the sombreity of elderhood? He’s never even been a bank manager!” Not an unfair criticism, which is why I shall allow the lives and experiences of others support my case. Take, for instance, Charles “Lewis motherbothering Carroll” Dodgson, who took on responsibility and made fine achievements, intellectually and spiritually, as a deacon, mathematician and philosopher. He also penned the English language’s definitive works of imagination and nonsense, which were derived in no small part from his weaving delightful narratives out of the very humdrum furnishings of his everyday life.

“All very well,” you may say, “but he was famous because of his nonsense. His other works are trivial my comparison.” Well, how about the immortal God-King of the ancient Americans, public peacock Theodore Roosevelt? President, war hero, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and, alongside his son Kermit, bona fide Ridiculous Adventurer, TR filled in time between trust-busts and safaris by playing with adorable kittens, and ponies with pretty manes, which he detailed in his diaries and letters. No-one who records with such loving precision the ambushing of a severe, sidewhiskered Speaker of the House by a rascally cat can be one who disdains childlike playfulness.

Perhaps I’m overthinking what is essentially a lazy journalist’s habit – quoting this passage out of context like it were a Shakespeare villain. Still, I may just be a suburban schnauzer-fancying weirdo, but I am prepared to cling to this principle, like a drowning man to a freak flag. I distrust any man in which the urge to imagine dinosaurs is not powerful. They may not be your cup of tea, but if you have no patience for my badgers wearing top hats, then I have no patience with you! And while I’m addressing quotations: the claim that only two kinds of people do not wear beards, women and children, is wrong on at least two levels, and I, for one, am prepared to speak up for the ladies with luxurious facial hair!


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Commentary upon “In Defence of Childish Things”

  1. Denise M. Baran-Unland was heard to remark,

    Upon the 13th of February, 2012 at 9:14 pm,

    Great post, but I’m wondering, perhaps, if you don’t mean “childlike,” as opposed to “childish.”
    To be childlike is to be open to all of the above, the very depth and breadth of what makes life colorful and exhilarating.
    Childish behaviors, conversely, are grasping, mean, and selfish, with no regard for another’s needs, wants, goals, desires, etc.
    Babies (and I’ve had six) come into this world tight-fisted, and, because they are so helpless, can’t comprehend anything past themselves. It can take a lifetime to open those hands and truly be open. Sadly, for some individuals, that never occurs.
    Three cheers for speaking up for ladies with luxurious facial hair!


  2. Sir Frederick Chook was heard to remark,

    Upon the 25th of February, 2012 at 2:02 am,

    I’m not sure I’d distinguish the two terms – I’m not sure why one synonym should get all the positive baggage and the other all the negative. Certainly, as I say, children are entirely self-centred, and should be allowed to be so, to a point. (That said, I have met some astonishingly kind-hearted and sensible children – older girls, mostly – who give you hope for the species. Anyhow, point is, children can be all sorts of things.)


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