I remember when I was a young lad at the mercy of the Presentation Brothers in Glasthule all those years ago before I knew what I know now about life and death. What I recall are the many permafrost mornings I spent in english class studying the poets of yesteryear. Our boney arses sitting on hard lifeless wooden benches, the distant warmth of a radiator threatening to send the cold snaps packing but never quite succeeding.
There’d we sit, all thirty of us give or take a sick note, with our purple hands under our bums and scarves wrapped around our necks, our eyes trained on the decidedly uninteresting text in front of us. The teacher, one of many long-suffering souls who bared the brunt of the rambunctious spirit of the local youth squarely on the jaw, would try to instil in us the feelings and sentiments that the poor bard spent countless joyless days and nights trying to craft.
This particular poem was about the poet’s joy upon waking to an idyllic spring pastoral morning complete with fornicating fauna and celebratory blooms heralding the birth of a new cycle, of a new generation, of the creation of life.
Some would call such a moment ‘blissful’ or ‘enlightening’. Like a sudden awareness of the world and all its beauty is there for you to see like never before.
Well that’s all well and good but apparently it turns out that our poet was not too happy that he wouldn’t be able to see this scene through his innocent child eyes ever again due to the inevitable human march towards old age and what ever the opposite of innocence is.
Typical poet talk, hasn’t changed a bit over the millennia. Once a poet, always a …
So, there we were, a class full of juvenile carbon based lifeforms overflowing with hormones and contraband cigarettes with one thing on our minds and it wasn’t the poor schlep waxing lyrical about the birds and the bees; we wanted to go to the laboratory of life and try it out for ourselves!
At that age how can one possibly understand the eternal question of innocence and its innate desire to be lost or tarnished? Well, you can’t and we didn’t. It went straight over our heads down the corridor to the tuck shop for a cup of tea and a digestive biscuit not to resurface until exam time.
So the poet wasn’t looking forward to being all grown up and mature. Bleeding big girl’s blouse if you ask me. The truth is we carry our childhood around with us like a snail carries its shell. It both protects us and makes us vulnerable for the rest of our lives. Everything we do as an adult is rooted in our childhood. Every new experience is compared to our childhood ‘benchmark’ memory or experience. Our like or dislike for mushrooms and oily fish is more than likely related to an event when what was on the telly was more important than what was on the plate for dinner.
Did you want to be a plastic surgeon or dog walker when you were just eleven years old? Probably not but I’m sure your current occupation is in some way linked to something you did or didn’t do when you were still knee high to a Daddy Long legs or perhaps it came later when you were behind the bike sheds with Phillip or Phillipa, or perhaps both!
I can hear the poet whinging from his shady grave as I type this out, “Nobody understands me! I’m an alien in my own world! This wrinkly old bag of bones so disgusts me I daren’t even try to compose an ode!”
The only thing that is stopping you from blissing out at Mother Nature’s brilliance when you open those musty curtains first thing in the crispy morning is you! You and your crusty attitudes and stuck in a rut routines. If you want to be a child again just act like a reckless idiot, sleep like an angel, love like you’re on drugs and work like there’s no tomorrow until it’s time to suck on that sweet milky teat of sustenance.
Alternatively you could just sit it out and wait for your dotage and Alzheimer’s to come along and give you a new outlook on life in all it’s confusingly repetitive glory, but where’s the fun in that?
Sadly, most committed poets don’t make it past 27 so the joys of old age are forever lost to them.
Your childhood continues to exist even when you can’t feel it or experience it. It is the blueprint of your emotional self.
It’s a state of mind not a state of regret.