I was walking in the park this afternoon playing Pokémon and stumbled upon a kids’ birthday party. There were helium Star Wars balloons, a table of snacks and a gazebo tent thing. Adults were standing around, chatting. An adult male was dressed in Luke Skywalker garb with a wig, wielding dual foam lightsabers. A few metres away was a line of children all wearing long brown cloaks, wielding foam lightsabers of their own. ‘Skywalker’ was calling them each up, one at a time, to charge and take a couple of swings. For each child, he’d offer some congratulatory comment. “Great swinging”, “awesome running” and the like. The kids were getting charged up and excited to take their turn. They couldn’t have been older than four or five years, but the simple act of running up to play sword fights was filling them with elation. “Great work padawans” Skywalker would yell and they’d get amped up for another run. I watched out of the corner of my eye for ten minutes or so, genuinely stoked to see these kids having such innocent fun. It took me back all the way to my third or fourth birthday.
It was a McDonalds party, which must’ve been the easiest hand off for parents organising a birthday. It was Ninja Turtles themed and we’d decked out our booth with decorations. Someone came around to paint faces, which led to a bunch of kids with greenface and blue/red bands painted around the eyes. Maybe a couple of Michaelangelo and no more than one Donatello. This was in the 90s when nerds were still maligned. We stuffed our faces full of chips and cheeseburgers, then ran outside to wreak havoc on the playground. There tiny human turtles dangling from the cell bars of Officer Big Mac and swaying in the spring-loaded grimace. Surprisingly, I don’t think anyone threw up. We were all loaded back to the table where I blew out candles and we all gorged on cake. At that age, this was my picture of paradise.
For a long time I thought there was this dampening down of excitement happening. Without any intended ageism, I assumed it was generational and based on excessive stimulation. Life these days is stimulation overload to the point where it almost dulls the senses. Everything is big, bright, loud and flashy and there’s this ever-present arms race to get our attention. I know it’s harder for me to get excited about almost anything these days because I’ve done or seen so much before. If we live in a world where we can have whatever we want delivered at the press of a button or with the scan of a card, the stakes seem lower than ever before. If things are too easy, where’s the excitement in that?
I’m rambling, so I’ll try and find a point. Is there a way to seek out new and original simple pleasures? I feel like no more than a month and a half ago I was flipping my lid over how fun tie dying was. An activity like that isn’t a big buy-in. Get a kit and some friends who want to give it a try, put in some time and bang! A whole new experience. The easiest thing is be cynical and stop seeking out novel activities. What’s the point? I often think. That’s dumb, simplistic. Really though, as an adult how often do we get to feel that burst of excitement that comes with feeling something unfamiliar but pleasant? How often do we get to be in a different element or light, enjoying ourselves because of what something represents rather than how tailored it is to our burnt out receptors?
At the end of the day, who doesn’t want to be a jedi or ninja turtle for once?