Once a small child discovers something that delights them, they want to experience it over and over. Any parent knows this all too well.
Stacking the blocks and knocking them over. “Do it again!”
Catching them when they jump in the pool. “Do it again!”
Pulling them around the block in the wagon. “Do it again!”
Nothing compares to watching a child revel in experiencing something for the first time, and then wanting to “do it again.” Of course, that activity can quickly become maddening if it includes repeated incessant buzzing or ringing from a toy, watching the same video for the 45th time, or a level of physical exertion that pushes you to the brink of collapse.
Let’s be honest, as much as we love our kids sometimes their desire to do the same thing over and over can be a pain in the ass. How often do we as adults ask for things to be repeated? “Do it again” is not part of our grown-up vernacular. Seeing or experiencing the same things over and over is boring or a waste of time. There are other things to accomplish, pressing deadlines to meet. We become jaded to so much that we experience every day, to the point that we no longer take notice of much of what’s happening around us.
As parents on some level, we look forward to the time when our kids get bored with endless repetition. And, of course, eventually they do and the exultant cries of “do it again” become nothing more than distant echoes from a childhood long past.
I’ve been wondering lately, however, if this aversion to repetition is a sign of a deeper existential malaise that can afflict all of us as we age.
It’s a familiar adage: everything we need to know in life we learned in kindergarten. We tend to associate this maxim with the timeless life lessons about the Golden Rule, sharing, listening and compassion. But we tend to forget that “do it again” is still a common refrain in a kindergarten classroom.
At the risk of delving too deeply into spiritual matters, whatever your beliefs about the maker of the universe, it is undeniably true that the world is a very repetitive place. The sun rises and sets. The seasons change. Flowers bloom and then die. The tide rises and recedes. Over and over again, in predictable cycles for millions of years.
If you believe that there is an author behind our existence, then it’s hard to argue that He/She doesn’t revel in repetition. Perhaps the creator remains a perpetual child in the sense that He/She says to the sunrise and the ocean tides “do it again” just for the sheer joy of the experience because it never grows old or boring. The universe is not jaded to its everyday wonders.
There’s no stopping the effects gravity or time will have on each of us. Aging is inevitable. But as I’m learning slowly as I progress through middle age, there is a tremendous difference between getting older and being old.
One of the most valuable lessons we can get from a child, or our maker if you believe in such a thing, is the importance of not allowing ourselves to grow bored by the simple pleasures and experiences in life. To do so isn’t a sign of maturity or wisdom, but rather an indication that we have allowed ourselves to be blind to the possibility of seeing something new in the familiar. When this happens, we’ve lost the capacity for wonder and awe. When this happens, we have grown old.
Perhaps the cure for the existential boredom is to avoid the trap of viewing “do it again” as a child’s mantra of repetition. What “do it again” can and should be is a defiant exclamation of eternal renewal and youth, no matter how old we are.