I remember the most disappointing day of my life.
It had nothing to do with SAT scores or job rejections or romances that went up in smoke.
It was the day I had a head-on collision with the fact that there is no such thing as Santa Claus. I was a Santa Freak. I waited for him all year. Dreamed about him. Wished on stars for a ride with Rudolph. Made him coffee and cookies every Chritmas eve.
The idea of this kind and lovely spirit, this giver of gifts, this maker of dreams come true, flying through the midnight skies, dressed in red, ringing bells-well, it was all just so captivating to me.
And then the world told me it was time to grow up. Santa was a lie. I was pole-axed.
This morning I walked past a home with a Halloween figure- some kind of fairlyland version of a ghost- propped up on the front porch. Immediately, I thought, “A child lives here.”
You may say, “Of course. Halloween is for kids.” But I see it in a different way. Halloween, Santa and all of the charming fantasies in life are the preserve of kids because the adults move on. And we think this is healthy and natural but it embodies a true loss: we abandon the imagination in our lives.
We become pragmatic machines. We live by the rules of empirical evidence. If scientists can’t prove it, we don’t believe in it. We work and shop and invest and plan and strategize–but we don’t fantasize. And I believe when that happens we don’t grow. In fact, we shrink. We live in an ever-smaller space.
Einstein said that his intelligence was important but that it paled in comparison to his imagination. This latter skill, this blessing, he said, enabled him to encircle the globe. The greatest scientist who ever lived liked to begin his thinking with a fantasy and then work backwards to reality. Most of us are trained not to do that. It is childish, we are told. It also led to relativity and to Picasso’s cubism. And to Apple and Google and Disneyland and frozen Milky Ways.
What happens when you meet someone whose eyes are on fire? Who dreams of the impossible, is in love with the strawberry moon, lives dangerously, eschews “the rules,” walks without their feet touching the ground. Dances to a different drummer. Refuses to abandon childhood.
We fall in love. We admire. We want to join the journey. We want to toss away the bric a brac of our so very proper adult lives and stand on our heads and see the world upside down. That’s a great way to gain a dramatically different perspective for life, work, career, love-oh, it’s all just one big fluffy mass of the same thing.
We all know the axiom that holds there is a child in all of us. Not true. In the vast majority of people I know and have known, the child has been extinguished. There is not an original idea. Not a single crazy thought. Not one flight, one fantasy. Just spreadsheets, credit cards and a wild night at the supermarket.
The child that may still be left in YOU is THE lifeforce. The only one. Let her believe in Santa again. Once you let the genie of the impossible out of the bottle, you will have an exponent over your name. Over your life.