Have you noticed when small children are involved in play, they don’t consider it play. To them it’s real time.
Fortunately, we adults know it’s only play time. We don’t disrupt it, because we know that play time is helping them develop the mental capacity to gradually take on similar roles in their real adult lives.
And so goes the cycle of life, right?
Lately, I’ve been doing some reflecting.
I’ve had a lot of roles in my life. For example I remember when I was a religion teacher. For a time I could not separate myself from my profession. I thought I was the occupation I performed. But, one day I had the opportunity to leave for another career in consulting. I was both amused and surprised by how easily it was for me to abandon one role for another.
Answering the why is both profound and simple. It’s because roles are inherently artificial. Except for the paycheck you receive, there’s little difference between the roles our children play and the roles we play as adults. We think they are real, just as little children think the roles they play are real.
But It’s all theatre. It’s make believe. Roles come and go. And all of us will arrive at a point where there are no more roles to play.
Is there anything real then?
When I first saw one of my children born, that was real. Really real.
When I saw my eight year old cousin in a casket when I was ten, that was painfully real.
In between birth and death, what else is real? Only one thing. Love is real.
Love is an existential experience. It’s right now. It happens only in the very moment of the present.
When I was seven and hospitalized for a month with polio, the only people admitted to visit me were my parents. But because my 1st floor room had a large window looking out onto a courtyard, one time my aunt and uncle and their five year daughter and my three year old sister stood outside and visited me as I opened the window and sat on the small inside ledge. I loved that moment. I remember my cousin’s sandy colored curly hair, my uncle’s warm smile and linebacker built body. The smell of the September Southern California ocean air. The warm breeze. The bright red colors of the flowers coming from the garden, and the Spanish arches outlining the horse shoe enclosure. But as soon as that feeling of love came, it left as the experience ended.
The seriousness of my sickness, the tears my mother shed, the concern in the eyes of my father did not hold me back from loving that moment perched on the the base of the window that night. Moments of love break through in hard times, good times, any time. Stop the very moment it happens, and feel how real it is.