I overheard somebody in the coffee shop today urging a friend to seek out his inner child.
It’s a common idea, and at this point in our shared cultural history, old enough to be retired.
Honestly, I’ve been hearing this kind of advice since I actually was a child—and I’ll bet you have too.
Me, I couldn’t wait to grow up.
I wanted to date girls, drive cars, build buildings, and climb mountains. I wanted to pay my own way. I wanted to stop playing and get to work.
And hey, there’s nothing wrong with play–if by that you mean practice, experimentation, or the relaxed recreational activities we all need to recharge our batteries.
There’s nothing childish about going to see a movie or indulging in a relaxing hobby.
But it’s mature understanding that changes the world for the better.
I understood this at a young age. So every chance I got to look forward, and move forward—I did.
Occasionally, I looked back on my past, but never to seek wisdom.
Kids say the darnedest things, but there’s no true wisdom in childhood.
Children can be full of wonder. And love. And an abundance of good characteristics.
For example, they aren’t inherently bigoted—that unfortunate trait is too often taught by heinous, immature adults.
But by definition, children don’t have much life experience. And wisdom is only earned through life experience.
Wisdom is for grown-ups.
So I pretty much ignored embrace your inner child and didn’t think too much about it.
In my advancing years, I’ve noticed too many people—of all ages—not just taking the message to heart, but taking it literally enough that they kvetch about being a grown-up.
“I just can’t adult today,” reads a popular T-shirt.
I hope you’re not planning to fix my power line in the blizzard or fly my airplane.
Because, I want a bona fide mature person with a 100% adult outlook on those jobs.
The inner child doesn’t feed 7 billion people or cure polio. The inner child can’t raise competent children.
He or she won’t send rockets to the moon and Mars and beyond.
The inner child only dreams about those things. It’s the adult that makes them happen.
Judging by the content of our culture, more people have taken the geriatric advice to embrace their inner child than ever before.
We are surrounded by adolescent pop music, petulant news programs, bully celebrities, infantile expectations about life and the world, and a lack of mature empathy for one another.
The world has become a messy playground of inner children, whining and stomping their collective feet.
How about we don’t embrace our inner anything? How about we stand tall and be the grown-ups?