I positioned her just right. She could sit and watch Sesame Street, and I could steal the few glances needed to finish reading the page. I’d been chipping away at this chapter for weeks now.
Relegated to daddy daycare, my daily influences have become less Seneca, and more Elmo (if you hadn’t noticed).
It’s an art of nuance and finesse, you see- combining fathering with personal development. To sit in a way that both thwarts my daughter’s Kamikaze nosedives, and keeps my book just out of her sight; multi-tasking at it’s finest.
Scarlett in one hand, Hemingway in the other, Sesame Street on screen serenading sweetly the letter of the day. It was “S.” It seemed with every third word Humpty Dumpty was tumbling towards the floor. Just five minutes, I prayed to the Gods of Equilibrium to bless her with balance.
It wasn’t working. I was being an inattentive dad, and a half-assed reader. Two things I certainly don’t want to be.
I laid the book down, and surrendered myself wholeheartedly. Alright Sesame Street, let’s see what all the fuss is about.
And the crazy part, the revelation that smacked me across the face like a soaring Fish Market salmon, is that Elmo knows. Elmo gets it.
Elmo got a new Scooter. He loved it. He gushed with excitement, until he realized he couldn’t ride it. He didn’t know how. He was crushed.
Then, in infinite Jim Henson wisdom, he exclaims, “Wait! It’s not that I don’t know how, it’s that I don’t know how, yet.” That’s incredibly insightful for an androgynous red puppet of indiscernible age.
There’s even a catchy song about this whole axiom, “the Power of Yet.” You might catch me whistling a bar or two in the shower.
We all accept that children- or whatever the hell Elmo is- will be unable to do many of the things they attempt. At first. And it’s also understood that with ample effort and time, they’ll accomplish most, if not all, of these things. We encourage them to try, try again.
Only a monster would discourage a child, right? A cynical, cold-hearted fiend.
But why is this same sentiment, something so obvious and so simple, lacking in our adult lives? Why is it acceptable for us to say, “yeah, I can’t do that,” and just move along? Where is the “yet” for us?
Is it fear of looking stupid? Fear of failure? Easy way out? Yes, yes, and yes, of course. Discomfort sucks. Hell, it’s downright uncomfortable.
It’s perfectly natural to allow our wheels to slide comfortably into the grooves of familiarity. We gravitate towards the known, and follow the same old route we’ve always trekked.
We want to ride the scooter, but we’re too good at avoiding the being crushed part. So we convince ourselves it’s not for us, and that we don’t care.
And without a spirited troop of shrewd shag-carpet monsters to encourage us with song and dance, it’s easy to just bail. Though we know we shouldn’t.
Be mindful of your response to new things. Be cognizant of your aversions. Be suspicious of that voice saying you can’t do something, because it tends to leave out the “yet.”
Be like Elmo. He knows how to live.
And for you modern day philisophes, check out an episode of Sesame Street. It’d be foolhardy to turn your nose up at Big Bird- he gives Kierkegaard a run for his money.