Alarm bells tend to go off when I go on runs in the city. But they sound like glorious steeple bells and they surge from my heart. I don’t feel threatened, or nervous, and I don’t turn down another street. They're not those kind of alarm bells at all.
I think true beauty calls to us inside our flesh to ring those bells. Our organs pulse, or breathing quickens or sometimes slows, we smile or laugh.
When my alarm bells went off I was in mentalville, head down and puffing up a hill in Bernal Heights, San Francisco. Spontaneous color caught my gaze and I looked up; I saw a painted jungle on the facade of a house, with a magnificent tiger at the bottom that locked eye contact with passers by. There were rushing waterfalls and climbing vines that wrapped around trees, which housed tropical birds, all beautifully hand painted. Metal work in the shapes of spiraling ivy and massive butterflies decorated the front gate and edge of the rooftop.
It was not only a beautiful display of artistry, but it was a real, complete vision that had been brought to life. How often do we see an "art home"? Not often. And for whom was it created? You could say it was created by some essentric home owners, or it was a gift to their neighborhood, or it was created for the children. the truth is, it's potent with creativity and touches so many people. And it happened because some people still knew how to play pretend.
Did you play pretend as a child? Most likely you did. It’s the most natural thing for humans to do. It is our right and the essence of creation. You imagine something and let it be real. You can build a fort or make a silly hat from paper, or years down the road when you have more resources, you can build your own earth ship or find a voyage and sail around the world for realsies. It's the same stuff.
We hear so often how your own reality consists of your mental state and perspectives. If you choose to look at your job as a place where you hate going, where everyone’s boring, where you suck at what you do, then those will feel and be true. If you choose to look at it as a place you are allowed to go, where everyone is interesting, where you are constantly learning, then that will feel and be true. And that's where things start to change.
Children do this naturally. They can see a mansion in a cardboard box, for goodness sakes.
What if we did the same? We would act different. We would make different choices. We will meet different people.
Something special happens to children when they are actively creating and playing pretend. "An important benefit of early pretend play may be its enhancement of the child’s capacity for cognitive flexibility and, ultimately, creativity (Russ, 2004; Singer & Singer, 2005)." (Scott Barry Kaufman Ph.D.) In several studies, children's vocabulary bloomed, their understanding of different people's perspectives broadened, and their choices were less influences by other social behaviors. There is this healthy seperation of self and individuality that arises. Empathy and creativity.
On instagram, I chose to engage in a 100 Day Project, coined so by Ella Luna. I'm playing pretend every day and doodling about it. The project is only in it’s infancy, considering that it started a week ago, but I’ve already seen just how many filters I have to sift through so I can actually play pretend. It’s like that part of me has been shut down, shoved in a drawer, and the buttons are sticky with dust. Cleaning it off is a process. But so is life. And if there’s anything I am willing to subscribe to is that all good things take time and intention.
What will happen? Can I, as an adult, experience the same benefits as a child? Will my language and communication expand, my perspectives shift, my sense of self strengthen? I'm excited to see.
I invite you to play pretend with me. You be the pink horse and I'll be the blue one (I was always the bossy one as a kid). I can only imagine what doors will open and where I'll go next.