The other night, Trimama and I were talking on the Skype connection, and we were discussing weighty matters of writing, triathlon, life, the universe and everything. About a nanosecond before my pontifications became intolerably self-absorbed and pretentious, Trimama had a visitor looking over her shoulder. That child soon switched out with another child, and then another, and finally with the kid to which she is married. I had to snap a photo because it was just too blogworthy to pass up. If ever there was a family that plays and gets silly, it is that one.
Here, at the beginning of the year, when there are lots of resolutions and plans and seriousness and introspection, that picture is a great reminder not to take one’s self too seriously. Sure, there are real and profound benefits from approaching this sport and this life with discipline and self-awareness. But you know, if there is no fun in it, if you’re not playing, what’s the point? Notwithstanding all the training schedules and monitors and gear and precision and practice and seriousness, this is supposed to be fun at the end of the day.
Years ago, I was one of the many who vow to go to the gym, or run, or get in shape, and I tried to do that, mostly by myself. My discipline was better than average, and I would see some temporary benefits in improved fitness or lost weight. But those benefits were always temporary because the training was a chore that was too easy to pass up when the weather was bad or life was busy. That changed when I found a type of training, in a community of athletes, that turned exercise into play time.
Playing changed me completely and permanently from the inside out. When training is play time, who is going to willingly give up play time no matter how busy they are? What kid in his right mind is going to give up “recess” to make sure he’s really sharp on those spelling words? Who is going to over-analyze a game of duck, duck, goose or ponder heart rate data on a game of tag?
As adults, we risk losing one of the essential ingredients of the well-lived life when we lose touch with play and all the child-like fun that goes with it. Kids learn and grow by playing, and we do too. If you stop playing, learning and growing, your purpose here has been forfeited and you’re just taking up space. Not to get too Jesussy for a general audience, but the guy I try to follow and emmulate once told his disciples, “Yo, bro! Don’t get in the kids’ way. Let them up here to me, for God’s kingdom is made of kids. Unless you change your act and start being a kid, you’re sunk.”
OK, so that was the Greyhound Amplified Version of some real bible verses.* And whether or not you’ve got a taste for Jesussy goodness, there are other sources that say the same thing. Sinatra, for one, reminds us that fairytales can come true--it can happen to you--if you’re young at heart. So, you don’t have to be a bible thumper to know that it’s worth looking in the mirror and asking whether you’ve lost the kid in you, and if so, how to get him or her back. Life is too precious and too short to scowl through your days like the world’s only living heart donor. Life is too important to leave it to the grownups.
Be silly. Training is recess. Go play.
*Mark 10:13-16 (“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”)