Kids Love Balloons – Episode 45: Andrew W. K.

The single greatest answer to any question I could possibly ask. @TheSongNerd

An incredible thanks to Daniel Turnbull who has transcribed this answer for us to read while we listen, and makes sense of it all. Here goes:

“We’re born into this world as far as we can tell a blank slate. Now obviously there’s a valid debate about whether there are certain biological and genetic pre-dispositions, attitudes, aptitudes, and there does seem to be an almost mysterious level of intuitive understanding that maybe is already in there- or is received so quickly by the child’s mind that it’s able to speak and begin to walk, and become a person relatively quickly.

But, there still is this incredible openness, this purity, this innocence- or this a less flattering way to put it- this blankness.

So, we begin to fill that up with experiences. And each one of those experiences will to some degree be new. And so they can all be intense. As the example given by this shows title explains with a balloon- every experience is just as dramatic as any other experience. Even the most mundane experience, relatively speaking, can be groundbreaking because it is.

But, if that is necessary to not only begin the process of no only assembling a series of experiences to draw up, an understanding of the world and so on and so forth, it also is a way for the young person to form initial opinion, understand what might be good or bad eve if it’s as what hurts and what doesn’t hurt and start to make the way through the world.

Now, with that understanding also a type of beautiful carefreeness, I suppose you’d say- a lack of pressure that as adults we can envy, or be almost mystified by. We can remember back to a time when we were able to look at the world in a way that felt carefree. I think this, and with all due respect to the theme of the show, I think this is a bit of an illusion.

Because if we are really honest with ourselves, if we are able to remember back to the time of a child- our own childhood, or at least for myself, I don’t remember a version that I could have identified at the time as carefree.

For every moment of levity and buoyant sort of carelessness there were also equal parts fear, and trepidation, and being completely overwhelmed and confused. Having no ability to physically push back against the weight of the adult world- the largeness of that adult world. And it’s nice to just focus on these moments of elation and innocence, but there was a lot of intense stuff going on as a kid.

Even if you had the best childhood, facing the world is intense and the world is a formidable place. And actually as a child, I suppose, we compartmentalize that intensity so as to reduce it. And we blind ourselves, necessarily so, to sort of much of the world because it is too much to take on. We’re still learning how to tie our shoes. We don’t have to concern ourselves with the bigger issues that we’ll have to face later on.

So, we kind of develop the capacity to care more as we go on into life.

So really, we can envy a child in a sense. But we also should feel some kind of, not pity, but we should also appreciate and admire the strength that we’ve had to develop in order to take on care, or really the conscience quality that defines the character of a person as they develop.

Cause maybe you’ve met people like this. You can meet someone who is forty years old and has devoted almost all their efforts to eliminating as much responsibility from their lives that they can, wanting to hold onto this romanticized idea of childhood. But really what they’ve done is they’ve stunted, or even abused, their natural/inborn appetite for responsibility. They’ve allowed their capacity to care to atrophy.

And because it’s easier and less painful to not care doesn’t mean it’s the honorable, or more noble, thing to do. We have these strengths and abilities for a reason. We’re meant to use them, and were meant to exercise them so they grow stronger.

Now, in keeping with the title of the show, I think what can happen in that process is where we do get quite swept up in our cares and our responsibilities- and in managing them and trying to decide what new ones to take on- and trying to balance different responsibilities, different duties in day-to-day life with others, with desires, and with obligations.

And in that rigorous wrestling match of care and conscience we can overlook the beauty of a balloon. We can overlook the newness that is in every moment- the potential to be awestruck by the commonplace.

And for better of worse it seems the only way that a mature person is jolted out of that hypnotic trance of responsibility is to have some kind of collision with tragedy.

Where we realize again, the brutality of life, the preciousness of every moment- that everything is still new and intense.

And you hope that with enough effort I suppose, and maybe conversations like this, and a show like this, is our chance to reorient ourselves that we can keep sigh of those precious and awe inspiring joys of life that remain even while we’re grappling with heavy stuff, and challenging stuff. But we don’t need to shut out completely the mysterious and confusion parts of life.

You know, part of wanting to do the right thing is wanting to be in control. But you don’t need to be in control of joy. You can let it wash over you. You can let it hit you in an unexpected way. You can let it confuse you. You can not even understand why you feel that joyful feeling, and you can revel in that. I think part of real maturity, not to say that I’ve gotten there yet, is to develop the capacity to tolerate confusion, and tolerate a lack of control- tolerate a certain amount of chaos. And, in our best moments revel in that chaos, if only to appreciate the stability that we have somehow been able to establish in that vortex of overwhelming possibility.

This infinity of points of view, this intense thing called being alive on earth that we’re all somehow participating in, that we can be blown away by that.

You know, if that’s now a source of awe inspiring wonder I don’t know what else is. That’s an awe- inspiring wonder that a child should not have to confront.

You know, in a sense they’re coming from that place of complete possibility, that vortex, that whirlpool of unlimited potential. Right?

You know whatever it is that life emerges from that child is closer to that than we are. But the farther we get away from that the better we have developed out capacity, out point of view, to appreciate it. And if we can somehow, above everything else I’ve rambled on about here, we can somehow learn to appreciate and celebrate that process as part of this incredible opportunity we have to exist.

We could have a party about being alive- with all it’s confounding beauty, with all it’s brutality, will all the ups and downs, and the dark and light that it presents us with.

If we can somehow celebrate the whole thing, I think that’s our best shot not only generating that inner enthusiasm, that kind of irrational optimism that’s necessary to face each day. But also as a way of showing gratitude to life itself.”

Andrew will appear at the upcoming Melbourne Writers’ Festival

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