Recovering The Wonder of Boyhood: Part 1.
Updated: Aug 8, 2019
All men miss out important things in life — this is no tragedy; it is the nature of the world. The real tragedy is when vital areas of life — activities, hobbies or other things that bring joy -- are placed out of the reach of the man while he is still a boy. And, according to what I have seen, this is the story of all of us.
In my boyhood, I loved wild places, and especially water. I never missed a chance to go fishing and, after the long walk through the sun-bleached fields, dip my feet in the little river. I will never forget the gleaming surface of water moving lazily under the first sun rays of the new day...
A boy with a fishing rod in his dirty hands, two friends who shared both my passion for nature and my failures in the world of strong, efficient, rational people — all those boys who, unlike me, felt good in themselves, and took as much joy as they could out of life, simply living it, and wasting no time in thinking about it...unlike me.
This was me at the time — a seeker of wonder in a wonder-filled world; a lover of beauty, of wildness, of life, of movement and elegance. I believed that the world is good, and I took in its beauty through my pores.
Yet, it wasn't long before I realised that something wasn't right with me.
The world's goodness and beauty I did not doubt; I did not lose faith in its glory. But I could not help but be saddened by my inability to connect with it all...
I remember the beautiful fields, golden and alive with some mysterious energy; they breathed and moved, awoken by the soft breeze, and, full of sudden joy, I wanted to run through them. I did, and...it was not what I had expected. I did not feel more alive, and I did not become one with the world that beckoned me. Instead, I felt hot and stuffy on the inside, and for a while I was unable to breathe well and to feel normal again...
I tried again to be spontaneous, some time later; I did again attempt to be as wild, free and alive with joy as my heart desired...and again, I failed. Again, instead of connecting my inner self, bubbling with joy and life, to the world outside, for the increase of that joy, I felt thwarted. I felt weak, and I felt disappointed...I knew then that I would never be like those boys who ran, shouted, and jumped with joy, just because they were alive, just because they felt the warm sun on their backs and the baked earth under their shoes...
I had many such experiences while I was growing up, and, looking back now, I can see that they all gave me the same subtle but nevertheless powerful message:
You are not the boy you want to be, and you never will be. Get on with your life and do whatever you can to survive and hide that weak, childish, hopeless boy that you are inside. Pray that others never see him in you but know that he will always be there, to cause you shame, embarrassment, to make you a target for the mockery of the others...
But, you know what? You still have your sense of humor -- you know the girls love that, you know the boys tolerate your weirdness because of it. You are a good storyteller, a good reader and know many things -- you can use all that to hide behind, and if you are lucky, nobody will ever see your real self.
* * *
We all lose much while we are still growing up, and the biggest tragedy of all is that, unless our loss is caused by war, death, or disease, we rarely even notice it, let alone put words to it...and a part of this may be the belief that the past cannot come back, and what is lost will be forever lost.
This is where we are wrong...
What have you done with the things you once loved? Have you forgotten about them? have you buried them and left them for dead under the debris of the past? If you have indeed left them behind, please hear this warning: by doing so you may have also left behind precious pieces of your own soul as well.
If this is you, ask yourself: what it is that I need to get back?
Looking at many men I interact with daily, and at my own life, I can tell you this:
The hobbies, the arts, the activities, the forgotten places, songs, or television shows you once so loved, are very important. This is not because you will one day get the chance to share them with the world or make a living from them (though this may well happen too), but because they are an important tool with which to tend your soul — the soul that you do share with those around you, on a daily basis!
You see, those things were a part of your life for a reason, just like nature and wildness and water were a part of my life for a reason; they keep a vital part of the soul alive.
And this is the part we all need, if we want to live well as men.
But now, I will leave you with the questions: what have you lost that is worth recovering, and how would it make you feel if you did recover it?
With much respect,