The Non-Sticking Mind

March 5, 2008
By Elizabeth Elias, Hewlett, NY

“My alphabet starts with this letter called yuzz. It's the letter I use to spell yuzz-a-ma-tuzz. You'll be sort of surprised what there is to be found once you go beyond 'Z' and start poking around!”*

We were sponge-brains. We were bratty, whiney, and annoying, but we were able to touch and peruse and hurt and dream and struggle, and we were easily capable of soaking in so much of what the world could teach us. Our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were their caviar; our twenty-piece jigsaw puzzles were their calculus equations; our Dr. Seuss rhymes were their Yeats poems, and our imaginations were their philosophies. What would I do to be a four-year-old again? I’d do close to anything to be able to scar my knees, to fly a kite, to look up at the sky and mold clouds to fit the intricacies of a childish mind—a “mind that does not stick.”**

We were somewhat iconoclastic back then: We colored outside the lines (perfection had no meaning to us). We thought food and toys belonged scattered on the floor. We ate whenever we wanted, went to the bathroom whenever we pleased, and very rarely understood the meaning of “no” (listening to what Mom and Dad said was an act of uniformity—and we hated that). We were free-thinkers back then. We did what we thought was best for us without having previous knowledge of what society deemed correct and good.

Ask an astronomer—a person who knows a vast amount of information about her or his field of study—to explain to you what a star is. She or he (if willing to enlighten you with an answer) would go on and on about nuclear fusion, gaseous bodies, and eventually the reason why stars twinkle. But ask children, with their minds pure, unadulterated, and not yet “sticking” to the conventions and beliefs of society, and you’ll receive an array of creative answers: “A star is an angel;” “A star is my grandma’s way of saying how much she loves me;” “A star is a small hole in the sky.”

How many novel, simple thoughts does the world lose when a child leaves his or her nursery to venture through the complex odyssey of living in society? I think about that a lot. I think about what kind of straightforward, easy life we left behind—a life where choosing the red slide or the blue monkey bars was the most of our worries. Then suddenly—in a moment when the bitterness of abandoning a “mind that does not stick” flees to the back of my mind—I begin to understand. I understand that what we had learned from the world as children was and currently is being used as a foundation for a greater, more intellectual way of thinking. The water we soaked in with our sponge-brains needed to be squeezed out and utilized for a better, more meaningful purpose. If there was no such thing as growing up, human beings wouldn’t be able to understand how to take what they’ve learned, their instincts, and simple thoughts, and develop them into masterpieces.

So the next time you think the writings of Dr. Seuss are solely for a child’s enjoyment, don’t give in to that inane thought. Allow your mind to be a “mind that does not stick” to what is conventionally believed. You never know—your next big novel (or essay!) might be based on what you’ve learned from the great Theodore Geisel…

* Quote by Theodore Geisel, also known as “Dr. Seuss”
** Quote by Zen Master Shoitsu

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