The Enthusiasm of Children: Where the Wild Things Are

(Where the Wild Things Are | Photo by Unknownnet Photography)

(Where the Wild Things Are | Photo by Unknownnet Photography)

"He saw it, he loved it, he ate it."

By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

When we are children, we are human. As we grow older, we turn from human into something called adults.

Beloved children's author and artist Maurice Sendak illustrates this point:

One day a little boy sent me a charming card with a drawing. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a postcard and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, ‘Dear Jim, I loved your card.’ Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said ‘Jim loved your card so much he ate it.’ That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.

We lose our "wildness" — our intrinsic enthusiasm as human beings. As adults, we honor the superficial over the meaningful, this is why, rather than enthusiasm, we require motivation.

You will rarely hear "enthusiasm" being used for adults; even seeing the word, it seems inappropriate. Just as it would be odd-sounding to hear a child say they need motivation. Enthusiasm starts from within your soul and penetrates out, touching everyone around you — it's contagious. Motivation starts externally and meets constant resistance on the way in, and may never meet your soul. Rather than sharing, it's taking, it's about you rather than the thing you care about, because you don't care about the thing, this is why you need motivation.

Motivation only works if you have material goals and rewards. Enthusiasm just needs a participant. Children come eager and willing, they're interested. What are they interested in? In the act of living. This is what makes them great, this is what makes them Wild Things. Many adults can no longer fathom the concept of enthusiasm, just as someone who only lusts for people's earthly bodies can never fathom loving someone's immaterial being. "What's the material thing in it for me?" "What's my motivation?" And in that misguided quest, we suffer despair and regret that only adults can know. We get corrupted by endless chases for pats on the head and we forget how to be wild.

I have nothing now but praise for my life. I’m not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can’t stop them. They leave me and I love them more. ... What I dread is the isolation. ... There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready.
— Where the Wild Things Are
(Where the Wild Things Are | Warner Bros. Pictures)

(Where the Wild Things Are | Warner Bros. Pictures)

Now that I’m older,
My heart’s colder,
And I can see that it’s a lie.
— Arcade Fire, Wake Up

But a child knows. They know where the Wild Things are. They don't need material goods or rewards, they just need each other, other Wild Things.

And the walls became the world around...
— Where the Wild Things Are

Do you remember what that was like? Do you remember how great that felt? The feeling of looking at a swing and knowing exactly how high you could fly? We take ourselves and everything else so seriously. But as children, we would watch adults and promise ourselves we would never be like them. Do you remember? Not knowing what tomorrow will bring, that uncertainty scares us. But as Wild Things, not knowing what tomorrow would bring was our source of excitement. "I wonder what will happen tomorrow?!" And with each new day — we saw it, we loved it, we ate it. We were up for the adventure.

Let the wild rumpus start!
— Where the Wild Things Are

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