The other day, our six-year old son asked us what is required to become a grown-up. (Yes, you can be absurd and have children...) Bemused by the question, we asked exactly what he meant. "Well," he said, "how does a kid turn into a grown-up?" We explained there was no particular set of rules, but of course this did not suffice.
After thinking for a moment, he proposed that perhaps one should be required to get all your grown-up teeth (with which we wholeheartedly agreed), but obviously this was not enough. Finally, he suggested perhaps giving up one's preference for cake would do the trick. After all, he explained, liking cake is "not really important," something grown-ups apparently understand better than kids.
The exchange put us in mind of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's "The Little Prince," the classic and timeless tale of a man who comes in contact with a child prince and learns that adults have the world essentially backwards, worrying about all the wrong things.
Now, regular readers will know we believe all worry is misplaced, so isn't this simply a matter of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic? Not exactly. As we have explained, we believe embracing the absurdity of life frees one to truly live, however one chooses to define that. But we will also go out on a limb and say that the percentage of people who actually enjoy eating a piece of cake is significantly higher than that of people who enjoy (to pick a current "grown-up concern") debating the role government should play in the health-care system.
This does not, by the way, mean we think either is more meaningful from a broad perspective (as discussed here). Rather, we think most adults shortchange themselves by spending far too much time thinking about, discussing, and worrying about the wrong things. For example, one reason we love sports is that people accept it is absurd (well, most people, anyway), and thus do not get all worked up about it. We, therefore, much prefer discussing sports to talking about politics, as the fact that people believe politics "matter" causes them to get angry, say hurtful things, and generally act in a manner that creates conflict.
What we eventually told our son was that "important" things could be whatever he wanted. (To clarify, we were not endorsing the concept of "meaning," but merely simplifying for a six-year old.) He, of course, was having none of it.
"Well," he said with a devious smirk, "then I guess I'll decide family isn't important."
Perhaps absurdity is genetic after all...