Have you watched children at play lately? Did their peals of laughter, their pitter-pattering feet, their cheeks flushed with energy, make you smile? They always do for me; there’s nothing more delightful than joining in and forgetting all about the fact that I’m an adult and expected to behave like one.
But I have yet to see a child knocking down doors of business conferences or board rooms in an effort to sit still and listen intently to a long, drawn-out powerpoint presentation.
Why is it that free play and imaginative story telling feel so profoundly and psychically refreshing, while tasks and deadlines feel so oppressive and stressful?
Why is it that children express their joy so spontaneously, naturally, and completely uninhibited, while we adults trip over our own inhibitions, social barriers and insecurities?
And why is it that regardless of language, culture, ethnicity, gender or race, children everywhere are instinctively open to magic and fantasy, while adults, also regardless of these markers, tend to be skeptical and rely on data and science to interpret our world? Not all adults behave this way of course. I’m referring in large part to modern industrialized society—but even the children born into that “modern” world have an innate ability to play and to talk to imaginary beings.
Something is going on here. Something so simple and true that this article should not even need to be written.
Is our natural tendency to play, imagine, and accept the extraordinary as real, a sign of who we truly are? For that is, after all, how we are all born—before the patterning, before the social conditioning, before all the trauma and pain of making our way through all of the social, cultural, economic and political systems set up to keep us well-behaved.
We are born pure, open, and free.
And that’s precisely why we slide right into all that patterning—as babies, we are eminently moldable, impressionable, governable (except when we throw tantrums). Certain types of patterning are of course good—that’s what allows us to learn, to live in societies, to obtain the resources we need not just to survive but also thrive as individuals, families, communities, nations. But we also have that innate power of joy, imagination, and play, a power that can be temporarily suppressed and stamped down, but only with rare and great difficulty eradicated. For this is the power of life, of the DNA that courses through every living thing on Earth. It is our resilience, our strength, our power.
It is a power so profound and so potent that it has been misused and hoarded by those seeking to rule, and denied and prohibited by those seeking to control, throughout human history.
In fact, this natural energy operates in accordance with the laws of chaos, yes that Chaos with a capital C that governs the behavior of every living and non living thing on our planet, the Chaos that embodies order and symmetry, mathematics and music, the movement of wind and the flow of water. In a stunning expression of the essence of Chaos, on a micro scale every living thing born on our planet carries with it the blueprint for boundless energy and potential, while on a macro scale, the myths and stories we humans have been creating since the beginning of recorded history (and no doubt much earlier) replicate this very same blueprint, expressing that energy and potential in larger-than-life tales, in beings and characters of extraordinary powers and talents.
In my book The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree, it is two children, American-born Max and Maya-born Itzel, who communicate with the mythic creatures of the jungle—with their naturally assigned nagual, or spirit guide. Max and Itzel find it natural that they can communicate with the animals, and are completely unaware they’re not supposed to be able to do so. That’s someone else’s reality, and it’s not the children’s problem.
Impossible things happen: a thousand-year-old cacao tree bears magical fruit, cacao pods that reverse pollinate, and entire periods of chocolate’s history are wiped out when the sacred pollen is not returned. Mythic beings prowl the jungle floor and ancient histories are brought to life by sacred ritual. What sounds more interesting to plunge into—the magical world of Max and Itzel, or the world of an academic treatise on the history of cacao?
Perhaps this is why our myths always outlast our histories, why imagination and fantasy trump data and facts, why the names of artists, philosophers and scientists live on forever while the wealthiest merchants and influential politicians of their day have long since been forgotten. We spend our lives gathering money and other resources, but then spend it on art, travel, and extraordinary experiences, as if we still hungered for something deep within we lost a long time ago. How tragic it so often takes us until retirement to reclaim it. Why not reclaim it NOW?
Let me suggest a radical thing—a radical thing that has in fact been supported by many sages and many men and women much wiser than me.
Rather than control and oppress, why not nurture and guide this power? Look what Steve Jobs did with his. What Beyoncé is doing with hers. What Michelangelo, Gandhi, Maya Angelou, Mandela, and so many others throughout our history, known and unknown, did with theirs. Imagine what you can do with yours.
So try talking to a hummingbird next time you see one. Roll down a hill with your kids. Dance till the dawn with your friends. Have lunch in a park instead of your office and daydream. Express your joy however you want.
Is that really so radical… or is it just the natural thing to do?
Birgitte Rasine regularly talks to hummingbirds. You’ll find them and other communicative animals in the upcoming “The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree.” You can learn more about her at www.birgitterasine.com