In this morning’s first hours, faint echoes of children: laughing, singing, taunting, and even these jibes are not all that distant from glee. These sounds drift through the window and circle the room before quickly nestling in silence like chicks at ease in their nest. Anticipation and frustration war with each other in one minute’s short span. Emotions erupt; reach a peak; disperse. Joy, boredom, hilarity, horror – I hear them all, daily, making me marvel at time and its more devious routes, the backroads and by-ways that divert our attention and squeeze out our best years.
Aging induces a certain abstraction of hours that leeches out those compressions that emotions rely on. Were an adult to act as those children do, as all children do, flipping from rage to compassion, confusion to clarity, heartache to true love, all within a few random moments of a morning’s fresh start, calls would be made, appointments set up, medication prescribed to control such small shifts. After age ten, life itself (and its minions) won’t allow you to wave such unwieldy sensations.
Not within fifteen minutes, at any rate. If you were to extract those same moods and spread them all out, give us a few hours or days, a week or a month, that range would allow a certain leeway. A frustrated cry at the heavens for a traffic jam’s grind; a manic laugh of delight at a Frisbee off-course nailing your friend in the nuts; that feeling of joy that arises when one day winter decides that spring might now be the victor – you can feel all of this, provided: it not be in one hour, these emotional firebombs. Everything must be spaced out.
The result? A constant restraint of our own natural instincts. Better to let the boob tube perform its tired tricks as we live through its daily assortment of phantoms and fools. Let them on that screen live a heightened charmed life; we will allow the remote in our hand to decide which emotions we’ll sample. (Could there ever have been a more appropriate name than ‘remote control’ for the wand that we use to detach from our passions?) Or else we glide through the net, clicking and scanning and giving ourselves a few seconds of snorts or eye-rolls. Everything condensed, constrained. Something inside us, diminishing.
Children begin life so tiny but soon harbour, contain, even covet such impossibly grand and outrageous attachments to living they must unleash these large urges – and all within minutes! We adults, sad to say, seem to shrink with the years, learning etiquette’s mode of elongating our yearnings. We let out what we must, warm thanks or fuck-offs, in bursts of expressions that just approximate appreciation or hate, love or its shadow. As we age, something insists: Space it all out.
I have a plan, though. It might not work, but I suspect that its daring alone could ensure its survival. (The more illogic our goals, the greater the chance the universe might comply with our dreams, for the cosmos as well has an odd sense of balance.) Perhaps you might join me. If all the energy that’s out there never truly dissolves, as science and physics still seems to insist, I can contain the laughter of children and unleash it some day. Each morning I’ll set out a jar by the window, so the sounds from the school will land smack dab in its centre. I’ll screw the lid on so tight that no laughter might leave. I’ll do this each day for all the days that I’m granted.
At some point far in the future, when my body is withered and my brain a gray blob, when life has dissolved all my circuits and denied me my joy, I’ll reach once again for those jars, reach and then grasp, grasp and then twist, twist and then open. All those bottled-up laughs and great gasps from the past will then exit, in grand leaps and great dives, the birds from that nest finally grown and now soaring with wings that are mighty and full of their own sense of force. All that energy, preserved and now free. Once I’ve been revived, these sounds of pure life will dash through my window’s small gap, soar to the skies and spread out into the world, their collective upsurge a sonic assault that will attack all lost hopes and demand time’s surrender. A cacophonous melody, ablaze with the squeals and grand sighs of a thousand children at play. Finally, nothing condensed; nothing restrained; nothing withheld.