Since having children of my own, I’ve become nearly obsessed with human development and how it is that we grow into fully-actualized versions of ourselves. Especially in light of our beginnings as completely useless and dependent chubby blobs that can’t even hold our fat heads up on our own. If you consider what it takes to go from neonate to walking and language acquisition during the first year of human life, we’re talking about a goddamn supernova of neurological development – a mushroom cloud of neural pathways allowing for cognition, social connection, expression, sensory processing – fucking EVERYTHING, y’all.
And the bulk of this development happens through sheer trial and error. If you’re anything like me, watching a baby for a long enough stretch has you skirting on the brink of a hysterical event the entire time – because all they do is do everything the wrong way a thousand times, until finally one glorious and completely accidental time they get it right. And then, very likely, they’ll go back to arsing the whole thing up again for a few rounds. At some point they make the connection that whatever they managed to do the one time they got it right was, indeed, the right way, and it worked, and they can repeat that act and get it right again. And so they do, and they might repeat this right way for a bit, and then they move on to the next neural pathway that needs creating, and they begin again at the beginning. And I leave the room out of self- and baby-preservation. And maybe contemplate reducing my caffeine intake.
Children are natural scientists. Everything they do is in the spirit of scientific experiment and innovation. Especially all those things they do that make them look like sociopaths. They are experimenting with the world in ways that we, as adults, cannot even wrap our brains around: throwing dinner across the table? Yep, takes flight for a second, then back to the ground like most things, then an old person yells at me. Punching the dog? Hm, she startles and bucks into the toys I was trying to protect in the first place, and an old person yells at me. Red marker on mom and dad’s box spring? Still red… still a marker… only now it’s decorating the box spring all pretty and an old person is yelling at me.
Anyway, rinsing and repeating this cycle for approximately 18 years effectively relegates childhood to the systematic and progressive stripping away of inborn curiosity and experimentation. Because children are barbarians who must be stopped, sure. But let’s consider the long-term effects of equating the training of tiny people into vaguely functional adults with the smothering of the exploratory spirit.
By the time we finally reach adulthood we find ourselves perpetually gathering pieces of our past selves, medicating in infinitely creative ways, seeking out therapy or pathological relationships, trying, really, to approximate our original, pure, and shiny inner scientist-maker. The very reason “adulterated” is even a term is likely because growing up means killing that shiny, pure example of incredible humanness at it’s finest: the child, in all its messy, probing, creative glory.
In my personal experience (one where my childhood scientist-maker was actually, and unusually, relatively celebrated and encouraged… with a couple notable exceptions), adulthood represents an era in which you try and stitch yourself back together until you finally reach Advanced Age. And Advanced Age is that fantastic season of life (earlier for some, later for others, depending on your particular load of baggage) where you have lived long enough to distance yourself from the trauma of your childhood and you simply stop giving a shit and get back to embracing that inner kid. If you’re lucky.
And here’s where we get to the part that kills me. Me, of low-level dramatics. Ha.
Many of us won’t even get as far as trying to reassemble any of this. Instead, most of us decide at some point, usually during adolescence (when other people’s ignorant and self-projecting opinions start to creep in and crack our psycho-emotional veneer), that we’re just not the type of person who makes, or explores, or is curious about, or disassembles, or invents things. We don’t get as far as putting together that we’ve been divorced from our inner creative scientist through social conditioning, mild shaming, or trauma (big “T” or little, makes no difference in this discussion). Because instead we arrive at the conclusion that allows us to be comfortably dissociated from the disturbing fact that we all begin life as the most brilliant creatives our solar system has ever known, but that it’s been slowly, perhaps even gently, beaten out of us. We’ve decided we’re fundamentally “just not creative.”
The fucking nails-on-the-chalkboard-to-me refrain: “I’m just not creative.” This phrase makes my skin crawl. I reject it totally. Because goddamn it, yes you are creative. You are a human being. Of opposable thumbs and frontal lobe fame. You are creative because it is your motherfucking biological imperative. We are sapiens, only surviving species of the genus Homo, all very likely because we are creators. We make shit, and we explore shit. And this is why our giant, depressed, chubby, floppy, and over-thinking skulls ever get past infancy AT ALL. So fucking own it and get on with your reason for existing, already. Go make some shit. Some intellectual property shit. Some physical artifact shit. Go cook some shit, and eat it, and make an actual, literal shit. Seriously. Let your inner H. sapiens sapiens flag fly. We are born of this Earth to be makers and explorers. Fulfill your imperative and STOP saying you’re not creative. Because, as a human on this planet existing with others of your kind, there is simply no other way to be.