children's literature

I have been reading a lot of children’s literature lately, in addition to my Big Kid books. I finished The Little Prince (again) and am peeking into my beloved Little House on the Prairie series; I just bought a book on the adventures of King Arthur and am so excited to read it. I have decided it will be a present to myself once I finish this big, important paper I am currently writing at my day job.

Market research is not for the creative. It is straight up fact, analytical and constant diligence. I talk to people on the phone who are mostly interested in numbers, money and time, as any good business person should be if they intend to stay in business. I edit more for structure than style. I keep a running list of ideas unrelated to work on the side; I find it necessary, but it does take tremendous will power not to spend my days developing those ideas instead of focusing on clamouring topics like exchanging assets.

Cultivating the creative is important to me. Not only because of freelancing, but because I need it for my real job. Creativity keeps me innovative about “boring” topics that should interest more people, especially in this economy. I like to think creativity gives me perspective, helps me say, “If we don’t like this marketing idea, if that is not working for us, it is okay! Let’s think of another one. Let’s roll.” Too many people get caught on one good idea and then stick with it till it dies, bleating for want of effectiveness.

For example, I heard on NPR this morning that the Baby Boomers will be able to start filing for Medicare soon, but how many are not even thinking about it because it is an “old person” program, and many of those people do not consider themselves old at 65. The commentators posed this as a serious question before mentioning, more as a fun fact, that Medicare takes up 12 percent of our entire country’s budget. Lack of fiscal responsibility aside, I think there have to be more effective and efficient ways to provide health care to the masses without the government micromanaging and then taking a slice of the profit.

The problem with the government and its workers is that they lack creativity. They cannot see anything happening without the government’s intervention. They want to help we the common people, but not trust us to take care of ourselves. They are like that one mom who sits outside the grade school all day, waiting for her children to hop in the car and go home. There are no room for boo-boos, no room for scrapped knees. And they are so serious!

In “My Fair Lady” (the musical starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison, based off Shaw’s play ‘Pygmalion’), there is a great song Eliza sings to Professor Higgins called “Without You.” She is essentially telling him off, saying England will be there without him, there will be crumpets and tea without him, Spring will come without him, and, ergo, she too can do without him. Of course, Prof. Higgins gets insulted and then, in a brilliant volte-face, takes complete credit for her magnificence. It is a very funny scene, but it directly plays into the idea that the reason the government gives itself airs and elite importance is that they need the people to need them. They, like all humans, want purpose; without people to govern, there would be no need for government. This does not justify their government programs or excuse the coming higher taxes rates or their arrogance in fiddling around with the definitions of society’s core foundations, but it does make one pause. They, like the Rabbit, want to be Real, wanted, needed:

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand (from Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit).

Alas! You cannot hold the government, or kiss it, or love it. A government agency cannot provide happiness or contentedness or change. These all come from a conversion of the heart, which comes from God and is encouraged by one’s relationships with him and other people. I had a nice conversation recently with a friend about joy: where it comes from, what causes it, and what holds it there. I believe there is no better way to find joy than through the eyes of children; their delight in the world is a wondrous thing to behold. All the solutions to the problems and the plethora of data proving such-and-such is nothing to surprise snow flurries, chasing butterflies, bear hugs, coloring pictures and vroom-vrooming a car around the room.

There is a lot to take truly seriously in this world, but the government is not included on that list. The government is best handled in the same vein as St. Thomas More’s attitude toward Satan: “The devil… that proud spirit… cannot endure to be mocked.” Life is serious in the sense that it matters; people matter. But what better way to thumb one’s nose at the overreaching government than to pay one’s taxes, vote in each election and then earnestly avoid interaction with those false prophets, who claim salvation through their legislation and executive orders!

But children’s literature, on the other hand, is worth seriously reading and considering. Because if Winnie the Pooh can’t help respecting anyone who can spell “Tuesday,” imagine what other possibilities the world holds!

Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore. The Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? Please consider donating now.

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