Bad things happen to good people because you’re not a toddler.
So I was at a park the other day where they had a little train track for the kiddies. Very cute.
It just goes round and round in a circle, but if you’re 3 years old, you don’t mind. Looks like they thought it was the most exciting thing ever.
Anyway, I’m watching this little fellah riding around on the front locomotive. He’s really getting into it. You can see that in his mind, he’s totally in control of the train. He’s steering it this way and that. He’s making it go faster. He’s jumping over unicorns (or something. Who knows.)
It was cute. And I remember that space. It doesn’t matter that the train isn’t responding to you commands. It doesn’t matter that the train just goes round and round in a little circle no matter what you do.
In his mind he was driving a magic train and that was all that mattered.
In that moment I felt a little sorry for him. Sorry that one day he’ll grow up to be my age – when a simple joy like riding on a train will be totally boring.
Like, if I was to ride that train, after a while (like the 100th lap or something), I’d be totally over it. It’d actually be a kind of torture. Tied to a machine just going round and round and round.
For me to enjoy that experience, I’d really have to be in control. Not just in my mind, but in reality. I’d have to be able to steer it. Make it go faster or slower. Take it out of the playground and out on the open road.
(I’d also probably need a top-speed somewhere north of 180kph, but that’s my story.)
I’d also need there to be an element of real danger. I’d need to know that if I didn’t hit a jump with enough speed I might not make it. I’d need to know that if I took a corner too fast I might roll the whole train.
With danger comes excitement, but only if that danger is real, not just make-believe.
And with this thought, suddenly a whole bunch of crazy things made sense. Humans are constantly pushing the limits. Just look at the crazy tricks people are pulling in motorcycles these days.
It’s also why young men find speed addictive. When you’re starting out driving 40kph feels like its too fast. But it’s also exciting. As you get more and more experienced, you need a bigger hit of speed.
Anyway, I’m looking at this spectacle – a kid going round and round in a totally safe and pleasant way, and thinking, “Isn’t it funny that we’re designed to get bored of this?”
That we come to hate it.
The first lesson I take from it is the importance of building novelty and freshness into your life.
Even if you think you prefer routines and predictability. There’s something in here that the human psyche craves.
It’s like a friend of mine who’s elderly mum has dementia. She literally has no memories more than 5 minutes old. But he reckons there’s a big difference in her mood if she’s had an outdoor excursion earlier in the day, compared to being stuck at home all day.
Novelty just excites the human body and spirit.
But the other lesson I take from it is about why such horrible stuff goes on in the world, and happens to us as individuals.
I’m an optimistic kind of guy. I live by the motto that everything happens for a reason and I believe in radical responsibility.
And people often say to me, ‘well, if the cosmos is abundant and responsive to our desires, why did I get a flat tire this morning? And why did my IP get termites? And why does Aunty Joan have cancer?
I think the answer to that lies in our freedom, and the thrill that comes with knowing you can be hurt.
I mean, imagine the opposite. Imagine a world where no one ever got hurt, where nothing went wrong, and you were totally safe.
It’d be like riding a toddler’s train ride, around and around.
It’d be ‘nice’, but all the excitement would be sucked out of life.
For you to know the joy of your freedom, you need to be allowed to make mistakes. To know the thrill of living, you need to know the possibility of injury and death.
A kiddie ride life wouldn’t have any thrill. In fact, we’d probably think it was a torture. We’d invent a mythology about gods who hate us and want to give us a shit time…
… even if, pound for pound, it was a much more ‘pleasant’ life.
I would not sign up for a life that had no other qualities other than safe, predictable and pleasant.
So be grateful for the freedom you have. Be grateful for the pain and suffering that gives life its sweetness.
And don’t go complaining about how bad things happen to good people.
You’re not a toddler.
Would you trade freedom for more pleasantness?