In Other Words. . .

A sanctuary for thinking people.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

To: Us Kids--The Doldrums

As a kid, I could never understand why adults hated winter so much. I would have done anything to secure a 4-5 inch blanket of powder to be used for sledding, forts, fights, etc. Now I'm just excited for spring. Thunderstorms, fresh air, and new growth are infinitely more appealing than this Winter Wonderland. Why?

If you have never read The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, go buy it now (or, to be fair, you can also rent it from your local library). In this witty children's book, the Doldrums are a physical place, named after the general feeling of boredom and apathy. One arrives there by not thinking and leaves by doing the opposite. The inhabitants of the Doldrums lie around all day not doing anything in a style reminiscent of an 80's bike gang.

I am making this obscure reference because the Doldrums doesn't really exist for kids, but the rest of the human race knows it well. Kids get bored all the time, but since their goal is to have fun, boredom can disappear as quickly as it came. To them, something as simple as snow is a reason to rejoice. If it melts, no problem! Now they can play football, and baseball, and tag, and draw on the sidewalk. To adults, snow triggers only practical repercussions: the roads will be bad, the windshield will ice over, the driveway will need to be shoveled. Also, this time of year in general seems to stretch life out before our eyes in a single thread. Everything that is happening, has happened, or will happen, is clear, and not a bit seems interesting. This mundane state of existence threatens to last forever.

For the last two weeks, I have been sitting solidly in the Doldrums. Much of my time has been spent lying in bed, thinking about all the things that need to be done. Very few things give me the motivation to get up, one of which is hating not having anything to do. Part of the problem is the time of year. The dreadful winter weather is coupled by the concept that summer is out of reach. There are no major holidays for quite some time. Simply, there is no light at the end of the tunnel, or so it seems. Days and entire weeks blend together because nothing happens to make one stand out from another. One struggles through 5 work days, if not more, to reach the almighty weekend which ends up flying by in the blink of an eye. The cycle repeats ad nauseum.

I am mentioning all these depressing realizations in order to combat this growing mental sickness. Take heart, all you children of the Information Age! There will soon be (brief) salvation from this stretch of boredom and crippling monotony. It will arrive with the return of the sun and preside over the resurrection of all things green. Time, in its abundance, will be wasted without care. Worries will be distant annoyances that can be put off until tomorrow. We will wonder how we ever forgot the art of relaxation. And the breeze! The breeze will knife through the branches, creating that beautiful white noise of nature that we have been craving since the last leaf fell. We will take for granted the golden sunlight of the twilight hours and the pavement left warm from a day of heavenly light. And when the air goes cold again, the memories of these days will serve our warmth better than a thousand wood fires.

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