Kids love to make noise. Fart, sing, clap, hum, rustle paper, snap gum.
In class, we only let them do it briefly, unless it’s music class, when we make them make the right kind of noise (or we take points off).
Watch our cousins outdoors–the birds, the squirrels, even the bugs create a cacophony of chirping, chattering, and buzzing
Even a fruit fly hums to his lovers (followed by, well, licking.) And don’t get me started on fruit bats. Ahem, back to noise.
Here’s my anecdotal observation: kids who make noise in class (other than the one trying to disrupt) are generally the happy ones. Humming, singing, chattering away, despite years of admonishments.
Mammals love to make noise, and humans are pretty good at it. Most humans are pretty happy when they are singing for themselves, and until the last few decades, the only singing a child heard was that of those around them.
Today we “consume” music, and singing in public gets odd looks (unless you’re very good at it and doing it for money).
I know–I’m a singing fool.
So to recap so far: Grow stuff. Eat well. Make music (or even just noise).
Pursuing happiness is a big deal in this experiment called America. Public education is a big deal, too. Both are under fire.
I think a lot of unhappiness stems from our cultural break from our mammalian roots. (That’s not a thesis, just an idle thought.)
While too many times ethnic celebrations in schools break down into match-the-food-with-the-culture, they do provide a teachable moment when a child of the dominant culture mutters “But I’m American– we don’t have a food.”
And there may be some truth to that.
Mammals need to eat a lot of food, the price of our warm-blooded nature. Most of our furry cousins spend a good part of their waking hours getting and eating food. Much of their social interaction revolves around getting (and sharing) food.
Until very recently (past hundred years or so) much of American social interaction involved the multiple steps needed to eat. “We” cheated a little bit of the time by using enslaving other people, only considered 3/5 of the rest of “us” (and only considered human at all so the South could have a bigger voice in Congress), but still, much of any given day was dedicated to sowing, reaping, slaughtering, prepping, sifting, grinding, rolling, frying, kneading, baking, churning, chopping, hauling, and, well, eating.
Pretty much everything eaten was local and in season, and I’m betting also pretty good most of the year.
How do I know? I am blessed with local, fresh food several times a month. Even in February, I can rake clams from the bay, pluck Brussels sprouts from the garden, cook the clams with rosemary and parsley from the garden, then chase it down with honey wine from my daughter’s bee hive.
I teach children biology, or at least I pretend to. Hard to teach children about life in a culture that uses Round-Up like water, in a culture where few children have slaughtered anything but mosquitoes, and where too few children have eaten anything they planted themselves.
Child by child I try to change this, but not so they can survive in some post-Apocalyptic world.
No, I just want them to have a shot at pursuing happiness. Real happiness.
I am one of the happiest adults I know. Grumpy, true, but anyone paying attention to the world around us should be barking mad at times.
I also realize that I have been graced with the pedigree that allows me to swim through this cultural sea oblivious to the flotsam.
To talk of one’s happiness is bad enough, to advise others on how to achieve it infuriating–feel free to stop reading right here. Still, if one teaches children in a public school (and I do), and believes “the pursuit of happiness” is a civic duty (for democracies cannot thrive if we pursue merely money and pleasure), well, that’s reason enough for this post.
Back in my doctor days when I occasionally hung out with the upper middle class sort, I was invited to a pool party by one of my attending physician supervisors. Not going was not really an option, so on a rare day off my clan piled into an ancient Ford LTD station wagon and headed to the gilded hills.
Her home was beautiful, the pool large and inviting, and she had several beautiful gardens. I was far more interested in the plants than the pool, and while chatting, she made it clear she had a gardener. (Why anyone would have a gardener escapes me, but I listened politely while looking for an escape.)
She became wistful “My gardener seems so happy–must be nice to be so simple not to have to worry about things.”
She was envious of her gardener’s life (or at least the one she imagined he lived), the same gardener who likely could not afford to bring his children to his employer’s pediatric practice.
I thought of suggesting to her that she might want to get her hands into the dirt herself, mammals that we are, but that was not her point, of course.
She simply did not have the time. She is still practicing medicine, and I am not.
So what is the lesson for my lambs? “Pursue your dreams” is impossible for most humans their age–their dreams are the dreams of their parents, and they know little else.
But they know this much–the person in front of them day after day prefers teaching over medicine. And he seems happy–not because he became a teacher, but because he loves what he does.
You are not a “job title” or a “profession” or “unemployed.” You are, for hours a day, whatever you are doing during those hours. That’s how it works, at least among the mortal.