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Read the previous chapter Don’t Look Now

Unchaining the Human Heart
— A Revolutionary Manifesto
A Book by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 20: Fun and Games

This is a book about the pursuit of happiness. Children are happiest when they’re playing. Happy adults have never outgrown their childhood love of playing. They just add better games.

1 Corinthians 13:11 reads, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

Shekels to Drachmas, whoever wrote this passage — the Apostle Paul, Sosthenes, or Crispus — was pissed off because he didn’t get his donkey saddle of rich Corinthian leather.

Or maybe he just forgot Isaiah 11:6:

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them, singing E-I-E-I-O.!

There are all kinds of adults-only fun I’ve already spent time talking about in previous chapters — sex, cursing, getting high, and outrunning the Feds, to name a few.

Maybe it doesn’t work this way anymore, what with all the “We Are the World” stuff kids these days get from the cradle onwards.

But when I was growing up the problems with having fun started the first time a kid brought home a friend his parents didn’t want him to have. Maybe it was just that his mother didn’t know this new kid’s mother. Or maybe he was too old. Or wore funny clothes. Spoke the wrong way or had trouble speaking. Or had skin of the wrong shade.

Then, when kids got to the school yard, it was no wonder all the kids already knew which kids were the ones you weren’t supposed to play with, and the ones you wouldn’t get into too much trouble for making fun of or beating up.

That kid — the one who got made fun or or beat up — was often enough me. I was the only Jewish kid in Massachusetts public schools filled with old New England Protestants and Irish Catholics.

I don’t remember the school playground — or walking home from school — being much fun … unless you happen to consider making your way through enemy lines your idea of a day’s fun. But then again, that’s a pretty good description of football, basketball, hockey, rugby, and soccer, isn’t it?

I should probably get a Heisman trophy just for all the days I made it from my school to home without getting the crap kicked out of me.

Sports is one of those areas where the truth is the more violence and mayhem there is the more fun men have historically considered it to be — and nowadays a bunch of old women have set up rules to take all the fun out of it.

It’s not childish things we’ve put away — it’s games suitable for grown ups. Sports with real risk of someone getting themselves wounded or even killed. That was how it was done for all of human history — up until a few years ago.

Come on — gladiator sword-and-shield bouts? Chariot races with horses being run into each other — sometimes fatally — for a momentary advantage? Christians versus lions?

Jousting with real lances? Fights with chains and maces?

That was the “Wild World of Sports.”

A century ago you still had bare-fisted boxing, and sometimes one of the boxers got clouted in the head hard enough to die. Nowadays — with the pillows prizefighters have wrapped around their fists — retired fighters just slowly deteriorate from Parkinson’s Disease. But then again, ballet dancers need foot surgery and football players need pins put in their joints.

Here in modern-day Estrogenia they sent Michael Vick to the slammer because he had his dogs try to bite each other while gamblers bet on the outcome. As if people don’t have dogs on their dinner plate every day in China and Vietnam. As if dog racing isn’t on ESPN.

Why shouldn’t Kentucky Fried Chicken be sponsoring Cock fights — with the loser ending up in the fryer? Just to see PETA becoming apoplectic would be reason enough to do it.

Let loose the hounds — it’s time for the fox hunt!

Not anymore. Not even if you’re the King of England.

Okay, assisted suicide is legal in Oregon and Washington State. Any reason it can’t be done with a game of Russian Roulette? Vegas casinos would probably make your last days lavish if that’s how you chose to end it all.

Remember the racing for pink slips in Rebel Without A Cause? The last driver to jump out of the clunker he’s driving before it goes over a cliff wins. Sort of leaves NASCAR in its dust, doesn’t it?

During the presidency of Thomas Jefferson dueling with pistols was still legal — and it’s a good thing, too. Aaron Burr putting a bullet into him was the only way this country was ever going to get rid of that imperial-lusting bastard, Alexander Hamilton.

When Joe Wilson called President Obama a “liar” from the floor of Congress? Come on, be honest. Don’t tell me the Obama-Wilson duel isn’t one you’d have spent big pay-per-view bucks for.

It just might bring down the number of ad hominem attacks in public policy debate if shooting off your mouth could get you shot.

I’m perfectly aware that there’s no good moral argument to be made for bringing violence and assorted cruelty back to sports, contests, and games. But there may be a robust argument for the proposition that when the sportsmanship of committing acts of violence left the human vista, the indiscriminate mass murders of millions of unwilling spectators took its place. When violence was limited to fields of contest and battle by civilized custom, sacking, murder of women and children, and rape of both men and women was the mark of the barbarian.

Moving along to less violent games.

We wonder why this country has become obese and out of shape. It begins with city playgrounds. Public playgrounds used to have things made out of metal and wood — Jungle Jims, tree houses and tunnels for kids to climb up, through, and around, slides with ladders that went up a dozen or two dozen steps.

I saw this change — while I was still taking my daughter to the playground — into plastic and foam things suitable for nobody over the age of two. Playgrounds for children were replaced with places parents and nannies could push around their infants in something other than a stroller. Lawyers worried about lawsuits did away with the public playground for children.

Then there’s the play-acting children used to do, before playing was replaced with playing electronic games designed and programmed to control the limits of experience children can have while playing.

When children play act, they play act adult roles — and I’ll use examples that show my age: G.I. Joe, Barbie, Cops and Robbers, Cowboys and Indians. When kids play act — or play with dolls and models — they don’t play at being children. They’re trying out being grown-ups.

In technical terms, this is called running a simulation.

Airline pilots learn to fly in flight simulators.

Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong practiced landing on the moon in a simulator of the Lunar Module, Eagle.

Childhood play-acting is a kid running a simulation of — practicing — being an adult.

This is discouraged because who knows what kids might want to be when they grow up? A mercenary? A bounty hunter? Aphrodite forbid — a housewife?

So it works backwards. People who want to call 911 and hide while they’re waiting for the person who broke into their house at three in the morning to rape, rob, and even kill them will give their kids toy phones, not toy guns.

But maybe killing off play-acting isn’t as easy at it looks. Reese Witherspoon told Conan O’Brien on The Tonight Show, that when she didn’t give a toy gun to her son he found something else to pretend is a gun.

There’s always sticking up your thumb, pointing your index finger, curling back the other three, and saying, “Bang!” What’s next to keep kids from simulating violent confrontations they see happening on Fox News — peace mittens and gags?

Don’t want your kids to know anything about smoking except that there’s a chance it might kill them half a century later? There go candy cigarettes. Oh, wait. Sugar is also not good for you. My bad.

There are still lots of pious homes that don’t allow card games because playing cards can be used to conjure spirits and try to read the future — the same with Ouiji boards and Magic 8 Balls.

Of course any toy or game with small parts or sharp edges can’t be given to your eight-year-old because a three-month-old baby might get hurt by it.

And what about shooting real guns? Yeah. that’s right. Schools used to have shooting ranges — and not just for ROTC. Marksmanship competitions used to be a common American sport.

Then of course there’s a ladder of games the object of which is to get to know the other sex a whole lot better. It starts with “Spin the Bottle.” It starts getting interesting with “Strip Poker.” And it gets downright frisky with “car keys in the potato-chip bowl.”

If you eliminate sex and violence, what’s the fun of growing up, anyway?


Next in Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is Chapter XXI: The Hand Is Quicker Than The Eye

Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.

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