Growing Up Proper

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Haven’t you grown up yet? Is that laughter? What the blazes is so funny? Quit that childishness! What is that noise? I don’t have time for your silliness! Just go outside if you’re going to act that way. That’s quite enough!

And so we grow. Taught to put away our happiness, cover our inappropriate joy, quit making those types of noises. Licking our fingers. Standing on the furniture. Rubbing the cat backwards.

Is that what you learned at Jeremy’s house?

These things are not proper, we learn. If we’re going to survive beyond all this constant poking, prodding, and reshaping, we learn to focus on the goal: get rid of that irritating childlike spirit that has to touch and taste and feel everything. Brains and rules and respect are all that count up here in the big people’s atmosphere.

What do you think you’re breathing? I made that air you’re enjoying! Put that stick down before you poke someone’s eye out.

And before you know it, that mixed up kid who used to be so free not to think about the consequences, not consider the appropriate fears and fuzzy barriers around everything, is gone, assimilated into a box among the many boxes that crowd the quiet hallways of an enormous houseful of hallways, in the climate-controlled neighborhood of civilized society.

If someone were to ask if you can feel the warmth of the sun on your arms or hear the buzzing of the bushes, the shifting of the leaves poking out of the big blanket of status, ownership, and endless consumption, you’d scrunch up your face, squint your eyes, say you don’t have time, and hurry on by, never thinking about the trade you’ve made to give up everything for a place in the important people’s bubble. You’re getting somewhere. You’re talking about things that matter. And people are listening. They’re really interested too. Finally, you know you have something here.

And you don’t have to name it to know what it’s called. It’s something. And you’re capturing it. That simple-minded childhood of yours, what you thought was so vital and over-powering all those years you had nothing. It was all illusion. Now you’ve had the upper hand and you know it was just vapor to this more substantial air. At any rate, it all vanished long ago, so what else should you do? You call the shots now. No one tells you what you have to deal with. This is your reward for living through all that, ignorant and alone. Now you’re awake. Now you’re really alive. You’re not vulnerable anymore here. It’s finally safe, known, explained.

You may not remember what sand in your toes felt like, but who cares? Now you have more than sand to hold you up. Now you don’t know uncertainty and if you’ve just forgotten about it, all the better. You’re free. You need nothing else to sustain you because this is where you belong. No body, eyes, ears, hands, feet, heart necessary to keep you alive. Just this fulfillment of all the years of striving set into the pursuit of sustenance. You’ve attained everything you dreamed–of getting out, moving up, forgetting everything for this. This something. And it really is something. At least, more than all that nothing. All that nothing you used to have. That nothing you can’t even remember now.

Whatever it was.

Whatever was.

Whatever.

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5 thoughts on “Growing Up Proper”

  1. This is a biting bit of brilliance, sir. My favorite paragraph:
    “And before you know it, that mixed up kid who used to be so free not to think about the consequences, not consider the appropriate fears and fuzzy barriers around everything, is gone, assimilated into a box among the many boxes that crowd the quiet hallways of an enormous houseful of hallways, in the climate-controlled neighborhood of civilized society.”
    I’ve been thinking about you lately–wondering how you’re doing. Judging by this piece, you haven’t been busy falling under the seductive spell of Conformity and the Company Car. If I know you at all, you’ll never “get rid of that irritating childlike spirit that has to touch and taste and feel everything.”
    I’m glad. Ignore the Propriety Police, Mick. They’re just cranky because you’re laughing and they don’t get the joke.

  2. just when i was about to give up and never visit your site again, here you post something, FINALLY! (btw, how’s the new little life? eveyone adjusting? you managing with 2-4 hours of sleep? i remember those days).
    i’m sticking my fingers in everything, taking off my shoes and walking discalced through the churches and grassy plots of my neighborhood. i’m losing all dignity and it is utterly delightful.
    how about you?
    suz.

  3. Here’s one way to hang onto your inner child — have kids (which you do). But if that’s not your thing, hang out with kids. I have a houseful of teenage boys — hardly a day goes by without some inspired silliness. They’re growing up fast, though, so I have to enjoy it while I can.
    Thanks for the excellence.

  4. Mick,
    I always enjoy your writing, but every once in awhile you say something of such singular brillance that it leaves me gaping. This is just such a something:
    “…assimilated into a box among the many boxes that crowd the quiet hallways of an enormous houseful of hallways, in the climate-controlled neighborhood of civilized society.”
    In twenty-six words, you have painted a more powerful word picture than I’ve seen displayed in, well, almost ever.
    Write, Mick. Write, write, write. Anyone who can create a paragraph like this one above should have a printing press dedicated exclusively to his use.

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