Fleur JongepierAugust 1, 202213:36

    My one cousin runs ahead and takes the steepest parts of the mountain trail and only stops running when someone calls his name. For him, everything is adventure and getting lost doesn’t exist (and if it did exist, it is cool). A bit behind me, my other nephew is squatting for glittering stones that he puts in his pocket, which is so full by the end of the walk that his pants are constantly falling.

    He is completely immersed in the world of stones, flowers and pine cones and only moves on when someone calls his name. Meanwhile, I sing songs with my niece (‘wool-not-walk’) who is in the backpack, and try to learn from the three. I am like them in the mountains – I also hear the waterfall and smell the larch trees – but I am also a bit in the supermarket, in the Netherlands, in my head.

    Aristotle saw children as defective adults. Children are irrational, weak, and physically out of proportion. They are incapable of making voluntary choices, nor can they experience true happiness. They actually look more like beasts than humans.

    Childhood is therefore above all something you have to go through, only then do you get to a valuable phase of life. “No one would choose a life where they had the faculties of a child, even if it were a life where you fully enjoy the things children love.” Shiny rocks, steep mountain trails, head shoulder knee and toe, knee and toe. How stupid.

    disabled adults

    By lumping children and animals together, Aristotle makes things very colorful. But make no mistake about how deeply ingrained is the idea of ​​seeing children as imperfect adults and seeing childlike forms of happiness as just a phase. A phase that, if everything goes well, you won’t come back to.

    When I look at my nieces and nephews, I see that they excel at activities that adults have forgotten or forgotten, tucked away or supposedly don’t have time for. Seeking adventures, taking risks, being distracted, doing irresponsible things, letting the imagination run wild, seeking out new things, daring to be endlessly happy and sad, getting lost, losing time, thinking about nothing.

    These are all things that are important to children without necessarily helping them progress to adulthood faster. They are valuable as such, and not just for children.

    We shouldn’t see childhood as a “phase” that you have to go through. As the essayist Rebecca Solnit writes, it is also a beautiful thing for adults ‘to get lost a little and find the way back’. When adults have lost their childhood, it is not something to be applauded, but something to regret.

    Litter boxes

    The problem is that we adults can’t afford to let our imaginations run wild, constantly seeking out new things, pursuing our curiosity, running carelessly through the fields and losing time. We have offices to travel to, friendships to maintain, children to care for, dogs to walk, litter boxes to empty, speed cameras to call.

    Still, it would be nice, against Aristotle, if there was more room for childishness in the lives of adults. The reality is the world that doesn’t allow much: a world where happiness and self-esteem often revolve around work, where vacations act as burnout prevention, where stress is bought off online with things we don’t really need.

    The lack of space for childhood happiness is largely due to social structures that the small individual can do nothing about, certainly. But again not quite. Perhaps we, handicapped children, can also cut away a little more space for adventure, impulsiveness and fantasy, and we can learn a lot from children with naughty faces and heavy trouser pockets.

    Fleur Jongepier is a philosopher and essayist for Bij Nader Inzien. She writes an exchange column with Erdal Balci every other week.

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