And then we grew up

From Kurt Vonnegut’s A Man Without A Country, Chapter 3

I have just demonstrated to you that Shakespeare was as poor a storyteller as any Arapaho.

But there’s a reason we recognize Hamlet as a masterpiece: it’s that Shakespeare told us the truth, and people so rarely tell us the truth in this rise and fall here [indicates blackboard]. The truth is, we know so little about life, we don’t really know what the good news is and what the bad news is.

And if I die — God forbid — I would like to go to heaven to ask somebody in charge up there, “Hey, what was the good news and what was the bad news?”

As a kid, I found that making paper planes in the classroom was the funnest activity. Paper was abundantly accessible and so was the empty classroom air to fly those planes. We tore off sheets and folded them neatly and made the best paper plane we could and flung it towards the large classroom’s tall ceilings.

As I have grown up, I have discovered entire websites devoted to the art of making the best paper planes. They carry detailed and boring instructions like fold it like this and fly it here. I am sure those are fun endeavors for enthusiasts. But I bet the enthusiasts are only trying to find an old feeling — a true and honest feeling — that they had in their classrooms when they were flying their rudimentary paper planes. And I don’t know if they can find that feeling back.

Grown ups have a severe disadvantage over their children selves. They are far too sensitive to failure — this takes them too far from the truth. All we did in the classroom was to do the best we could to build this plane. Sometimes we focused on making the nose sharp as a tack, sometimes we gave it a wider wingspan, sometimes we just made the plane longer by folding along the longer side of the paper. Sometimes we spent too much time carefully bending the folds into perfect seams, and sometimes we just made something rough and hasty. Because flying that thing into the tall classroom was the funnest part. It was all we lived for. We didn’t know if our meticulous folding was good or bad, or if our misguided sense of aerodynamics of a shitty paper plane was good or bad. Heck, we didn’t even know if the maiden voyage of this plane was good or bad. We just did the best we could to make that plane and we set it off.

And then we grew up.

Posted by on November 27, 2013 in life

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