“The desire to play is fundamentally the desire to be.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre
Kidmaste: the inner child within me honors the inner child within you.
Kidmaste is the art of being a mature adult while maintaining a healthy relationship with one’s inner child.
It’s also having the ability to proactively recognize and honor the inner child of other adults who may or may not have a healthy relationship with their own inner child.
Kidmaste, as a philosophy, is based in sacred play. It’s a deep tragicomic expression of sincere jest and frolicking amusement. It’s a creative leveling mechanism par excellence. As Vladimir Nabokov said, “Play! Invent the world! Invent reality!” Kidmaste sets the stage for epic art through deep play.
Play is greatly underrated in our culture. And yet it is self-evidently vital to human flourishing. It is a fundamental aspect of Eudaimonia. A sense of play turns the volume down on seriousness and turns the volume up on sincere adaptation and improvisation. The ego’s attempt to make us a tool to its agenda gets put in check and is then transformed into a tool for leveraging creativity, invention and lightheartedness.
When it comes down to it, a person who cannot play cannot innovate. Without play one is merely a cog in the clockwork, a deadhead on the assembly line. Those who cannot play find that their inner child is a kid in a sweatshop just going through the outdated motions of the old. There must be a sense of play if there is to be a creative process at all. Kidmaste is our inner child giving our too-serious adult self a much-needed wakeup call.
This concept is fundamental to practicing a philosophy of high humor. The philosophy that doesn’t honor the inner child is a dead thing. It is stale and dry, weighed down by the heavy rust and outdated dust of parochial reasoning. Humorless and lacking in humility, desiccated and uncouth, it shrivels up on itself.
Honoring the child within allows for a playful space. Playfulness is the acting out of a good sense of humor.
As Khalil Gibran wisely stated, “Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh, and the greatness which does not bow before children.”
Kidmaste is the epitome of bowing before children. It is the conscious act of honoring the inner child within each other through deep laughter and high humor. It puts the cosmic joke in check, leading to a humorous stalemate rather than an all-too-serious checkmate.
Kidmaste asks that we stop being overly dutiful and unimaginatively rigid. Rather than being overly serious and excessively telic (job-oriented) let’s be nonserious and atelic (play-oriented). Let’s work hard but play harder. Let’s be playfully nonchalant rather than compliant and rigid.
As Luther Gulick surmised, “The individual is more completely revealed in play than in any one other way, and play has a greater shaping power over the character and nature of man than has any one other activity.”
Lest we become a tool to our work, we must not give into the bureaucracy of instrumentality. Instead, we should use the instrumental as a tool to create intrinsic value. Invert the standard model.
Flip the ordinary dynamic. Turn the tables on the inner critic. By taking a leap of courage despite our risk-averse, play-it-safe, comfort-zone-clinging heart we reinvent the world.
Creativity is intimately related to risk-taking and play. Our inner child knows this. It’s begging us to update our dull habits and boring routines with courageous Beginner’s Mind. That’s why our inner child is often the voice behind the call to adventure.
It’s pleading with us to discover infinity despite finitude, to inject meaning despite meaninglessness, to introduce laughter despite pain, nihilism and death.
As Ian Bogost stated, “Anyone can treat anything with the deliberate attention that produces fun.”
Attention is what it’s all about. Kidmaste is paying attention to the playful kid hidden within. No matter how old we get, no matter how mature we grow, no matter how rigid and stuck in our ways we become, we will always just be a little kid from somewhere. In the grand scheme of things, we live relatively short lives. Really, we’re not that far removed from that little kid we once were.
The mask is that we’ve “grown up.” Remove the mask and the insecure yet innocent, naïve yet curious, scared yet playful inner child is there curled up around the warm center of what it means to be a mortal human in an unfathomably ancient universe.
Against such a backdrop, we’re all just little babies fumbling and floundering around this thing called life. The illusion is that we’ve “grown up.” The reality is that we are always growing.
As Dr Seuss said, “Adults are just obsolete children.”
In the end, honoring our inner child is a strategy for regaining a state of curiosity, playfulness, and sensitivity so that we can remain young at heart despite the hardening hearts of others.
It’s a method for deep empathy that shoves our overly-serious adult self out of the way so that we can see past the overly-serious adult self of others and rediscover connection through humility, humor, vulnerability, compassion and love.