There is much to be said for a certain amount of institutionalized structure, strategic planning, and discipline. Without these, our society would be chaotic. However, the sweetness of life comes about because of spontaneity. Spontaneity is the essential spark of life.
Perhaps this is literally so. There is an hypothesis that a primordial soup of essential chemical solutions and compounds had formed over aeons. Then, perhaps a spark of lightning provided the burst of energy to trigger the formation of the first one-celled lifeforms.
The connection between human vitality and spontaneity came to mind yesterday through an encounter with a very young boy. He was standing in line with his father who was waiting to pay for his purchases at the drug store. I was right behind them, absent-mindedly skimming the covers of the magazines and tabloids near the check-out counter.
Suddenly the little boy yelled, “Hey!” I reflexively looked at the child.
He then pointed at my Hawaiian shirt and asked, “Tree?”
I replied, “Yes, that’s a palm tree.”
He smiled and giggled, then ran over to his parent. The father caressed the boy’s head and smiled at me, saying somewhat apologetically, “He’s at that curious stage.”
I responded by telling the father that his kid’s curiosity made my day.
Short conversations like this happen thousands of times each day around the world. One of the accidental roles children play, is to barge through the walls that we grown-ups have built to insulate us from each other. Yesterday’s innocent incident, not only provided some friendly happiness for we three individuals, some of the other drug store customers also smiled at the spontaneous behavior of the toddler. Not only that, but the little kid inspired today’s blog post.
Humans value spontaneity so much, that we manufacture artificial spontaneity in our society. Back in the days when mom and pop stores were the predominant retail establishments. Shopping for groceries and dry-goods was more of a free-form activity. Now, we have Internet algorithms and widespread consumer polling that triggers customized advertising to individuals. We no longer just go shopping. Now we have a predictable, data guided “shopping experience”. Instead of buying what appeals to us personally, our shopping trips are becoming more manipulative. To take an excursion through a big box store is to subject oneself to faux-spontaneity.
That little boy’s giggle and our moments of authentic laughter are spontaneous events. We witness something that delights us or tickles our funny bones and real laughter bursts forth. An episode of honest laughing is an act of letting our hair down. Laughter is the spontaneous spark that shocks our learned restraints.
I hope you’ll forgive my name-dropping here. Someone I knew only through an Internet Buddhist discussion group, Chade-Meng Tan, once said, “If the mind is calm, your spontaneity and honest thoughts appear. You become more spontaneous.” Meng lives according to his own spontaneous nature. He is the former motivator, software engineer, and greeter of celebrities at Google. He has gone on to further international acclaim.
Someone once remarked on a radio talk show that formal Washington state dinner parties have all of the spontaneity of a Japanese Imperial funeral. I wonder if that observation was spontaneous or contrived.
I see symptoms of being grown up in myself. I’ve become somewhat accustomed to routine and the inner child must yell a little louder at the passing of each year. What spontaneity is still possible, I treasure. I try to keep it alive by engaging in creative pursuits. After all, spontaneity is the spark of life.