Last night I arrived early at the annual Solstice party hosted by two of my favorite people, Marie and Joscelyne. Their younger son, Jasper, was serving as lookout at the front door and announcing when guests arrived and an adult would need to come open the door.
I was standing by the bar (surprise), when Jasper called out his alert:
“People people people!” he shouted. I looked around. People were pouring punch and opening wine bottles. So, I guess they didn’t hear him.
“People people people!” Jasper cried again. My companions at the bar looked at each other. They heard this time. But no one felt comfortable answering the door.
“Marie!” called one person. “People are here.”
“People people people!” called Jasper. It felt urgent.
I walked over. Opened the door.
I looked out.
“Look down!” Said Jasper.
I shifted my gaze downward.
That’s when I saw 4 fingers held aloft by a tiny arm. The arm was attached to a very small boy who was standing on the threshold. He was silent, showing me his digits in a highly serious, informational way.
We stood there for a moment, as I tried to interpret the message.
“I guess that means you’re 4?” I said at last.
He nodded. “I’m in preschool,” he said.
“Oh!” I said. “Preschool is awesome. You make projects, and you do finger painting, and you eat snack and lunch and then you go home.”
Jasper nodded emphatically.
“It was the best year of my life!”
I looked at Jasper. He just turned 9 years old a month or so ago. His eyes were shining with the distant memory of being 4 – light years ago – an age of innocence that he was just revisiting. He was glimpsing a forgotten and now regained moment of bliss.
Our eyes met. We connected.
It’s interesting to me that Jasper (who just turned 9) and I (who just turned 60) share the exact same opinion about preschool with the exact same degree of enthusiasm.
“It’s true,”I said to Jasper at the doorway. “Why can’t life be like preschool?”
“Well,” he said, taking the hand of the 4 year old. “It should be.”
As a writer trying to make my way into the public sphere, I hear a lot about professionalism, standards, craft, brands, and marketing plans. I hear a lot about publishing and commitment, and how serious are you anyway about writing as a career?
How serious are you?
I compare all that verbiage to Jasper and his guest – the 4 year old with his proud 4 fingers.
It was right after the discussion with Jasper that I met Sarah. Sarah is a friend of the hosts, and she is the captain of a roller derby team. They would like to win more games, she told me. It’s her big wish for the New Year.
“Did you skate as a kid?” I asked.
“Not really,” she shrugged. “I just started doing this because it is fun.”
* * *
I want to take this opportunity to ask myself — and you too – something.
If making writing isn’t fun then why the heck do it? If it isn’t like preschool art-projects or like roller derby, then what is its value?
The avant-garde sociologist Murray Bookchin said we need to replace the idea of “happiness” with the practice of pleasure. I agree.
So here’s to making art, and opening doors, and getting on wheels and going really fast because it’s fun. And not for any other reason. Maybe you’ll never win a roller derby game. But that’s not why you’re doing it. Maybe your grandmother won’t like that finger painting you made. But that’s not why you’re doing it.
Maybe no one will like your book or your poem or your sculpture or your film. But that’s not why you made all those things.
You’re doing it because – to repeat the word – it’s fun.
When we do things for fun, those moments become the best time of our lives.
But, while we’re at it, why not think bigger than just that moment? Why not think like Jasper?
What if there was a whole year where we asked ourselves “Why am I doing this?” and the answer was “because it’s fun”?
That would be a year as fun as preschool.
Here’s hoping we can have that. I believe that we can. And even if we can’t, it will be fun trying.
HAPPY SOLSTICE HAPPY CHANUKAH MERRY CHRISTMAS