Innocence & Maturity

I took a little while after the “needs” series to sort of re-collect myself. I’m not famous enough to instantly sell-out a collection like that, and I’m okay with that – a little humility goes a long ways. I was addicted to Pogo for a while, and one of my favorite songs of his is called “Boy and Bear.” There’s a certain kind of melancholy that seeps in around the edges of adult life when you have children – the kind that acknowledges that even if you’re enjoying the moments you have with your kids it’s disappearing even as it happens. You are two fish in a stream that can swim and struggle to stay in one place together, but the stream carries on and you will both have to keep moving. Trying to drift and stall in one place and enjoy that moment takes effort and concentration, and at its most happiest it’s almost more sad because you’re losing something even more valuable.

Talking about kids in the NFT space is strange for several reasons. Lots of people are at least semi-anonymous, and sharing that you have children breaks the suspension of disbelief that you exist in real life and might be a relatively ordinary person. Not only that, but kids lives are in a precarious place right now where social media threatens to suck them in and drain every thought and experience out of them to publish for the sake of ad sales. You don’t want your children to become fodder for the machine that kills life (I’m being dramatic, but still). When I can find the time, I like to make watercolors with my children. Watercolors are one of those mediums where I think the absolute amateur can still make really pretty things even if they can’t make what a master can. Kids and adults can do essentially the same thing together and have results that are both equally exciting (to me, anyways). My new friend – the musician Dusko – had been in touch about collaborating on something. So, deep in Pogo and spending time with my kids and awash in watercolors, I was musing about the odd coincidence of innocence and maturity in watercolors – and just in general that we are both what we are supposed to be when we are either innocent or mature.

What I mean by that is that my experience has been that when we are very young, we experience some kind of innocence. We are what we are supposed to be, and we don’t second guess it very much. I had a nice childhood, so maybe that’s not a universal experience, but I wish it was. As we grow and begin to mature – there’s a stage where we are not what we will be yet, and I think that does actually create some sense that we are not enough – or that we’re not innocent anymore and yet we haven’t reached the place where we make mature and wise decisions. I was reading from Reinhold Niebuhr on this subject who says “maturity is both good and evil. It is both life and death.” He goes on, “reason disintigrates nature’s harmonies without being able to reconstruct a pure harmony upon a higher level.” Meaning we have to go through the painful process of maturing deliberately, it doesn’t come about naturally.

I don’t consider myself super mature still, but I’m working on it. I took the time to write out some things that I think my children (still relatively innocent) would like to hear from a mature adult.

  • “I am here in this moment with you – and nowhere else. I don’t want to be anywhere else. I don’t want anything else to enter into this moment.”
  • “I love you – and I mean it without reservation and I ask nothing of you for that love. You don’t have to be any particular way for me to love you like this.”
  • “Lets explore together and see all the wonderful things there are – it’s all so exciting and we will never run out of new things, because as long as we’re together it is new for us together.”
  • “I will always find you wherever you are and you will never have to be alone if you don’t want to be. I will hold you and be there whenever you need held, and you can be here with me whenever I am tired.”
  • “Look, let’s look while we are both here. In looking we start to see why it is we’re here, and your joy in looking is my joy, and we can be here as long as we want.”
  • “I want to go with you, and I never want to go without you. I want to be where you are because you want me there, and when you look and ask for me I will be listening and answering and we can laugh.”

Between Dusko, myself, and one of my children – we recorded some of these lines, and Dusko spent a couple of months perfecting a beautiful short spoken word and lyric track to go with watercolor animations I made. I was trying to create a watercolor piece that changed and moved in the same way that these moments succeed one another without us being able to stop them, but they are all beautiful for their moment on the stage. As far as the lyrics go – they come from experience and from idealizing my own role and my kids. These days both adults (present company included) and kids allow their phones or tablets or shows they want to watch or whatever to interrupt every otherwise pure moment. Mature adults love their children for how they are and try to raise them to be wise and industrious and kind and whatever – but sometimes I think kids can misread our attempts to raise them well to mean our love is dependent on their development in some particular direction, and for a mature parent it is not. Exploring together and sharing new experiences is a part of the beauty of parenthood, and I know for my own children they *always* want to go on any little shopping excursion or chore – even if it’s dull – sometimes they just want to be literally wherever you are and feel like you want them there. Not only that, some kids really need to feel like they won’t be left alone, that there’s no world where they can be left (as one of my daughters puts it) “all a-lonely.” The mixture there, though, is that even the mature adult has needs – and if the kids have energy we try to keep up with, as we age more and more what we want is someone to be here with us when we get “tired.” Of course I mean that for the moment, but more broadly just as we get old – as we tire in the bigger picture of our time here. Another thing kids sometimes don’t appreciate is how much their joy brings us joy. Growing up – especially at holidays – I so eagerly anticipated the ability to give better gifts to my parents, to have the money and ability to do so. I didn’t understand that as a parent, I actually get more joy from them being excited about something than I generally do from anything I wanted. I still like gifts (who doesn’t?) but it took that growing period to be able to recognize where joy comes from at different ages. The last bit in the official audio, that we can stay as long as we want, that’s the last reference to the incredibly painful experience of time continually pushing on. Kids never want to leave the playground, kids never want to have the day of sledding end or the game of tag or story or whatever, kids want to stay just as long as they want. What kids don’t know yet is that the adults want to stay too – but we know that we can’t. We can see the time passing, we can feel the river pushing, and so the last line of the song is a kind of melancholy wish instead of a reality. We can’t stay as long as we want, the kids may get to play until the day gets long and they eventually age out of innocence, but “as long as we want” is the dream that you can only make feel real for a moment through art.