Columns » Penny Post by Andrei Codrescu

Open Letter to Grownups



The trouble with being a grownup is that you're always called on to fix messes, your own and other people's. In the process of doing that, you make more messes. At some point, there are so many messes that you need other grownups, more competent ones, to clean them up. Competent grownups are a myth, but even assuming for a moment that they exist, their solutions to your messes involve making everything incomprehensible so that you'll feel truly helpless. When everyone feels helpless, these nonexistent competent grownups, who may or may not be parental, proceed to do two things: take away all your initiative, and lock you up inside a paradox so complex you'll never get out. Feeling helpless and trapped may be the normal state of your average adult in the custody of other adults, but it's no fun because it lacks innocence.

Which is why I say, like Jesus, bring on the children. Their messes are understandable: peanut butter and snot, ketchup and blood, play dangerously close to traffic, make physical contact with your pals until the world spins, take a ball seriously enough to cry. Unfortunately, when adults call on children to fix their messes, the children have to grow up fast and become nasty little adults before they even have a chance at childhood.

Now let's look at the problem of adulthood globally. Adults have messed up the planet with carbon emissions that are making the Earth too hot. Adults have taken their occasional moments of euphoria to war and killed until they were exhausted. Wars are never started by sick and tired people. They are the work of the excessively healthy, the super-optimistic, pheromone-flushed well-being addicts. Pheromones allow for glimpses of Utopia, and testosterone promises that you'll get there. But something happens in war and on the aggressive road to wealth: messes. There are wounds, puddles of blood, annoying grieving women and maimed children. And an Earth so hot you have to hop on one foot to keep from being burned. You're an adult, damn it, do something about it.

Bring on the children. Extort their innocence, inventiveness, natural compassion (how did they come by that?) and let them do their healing work on your dulled senses. Let them cover you in snot and ketchup and play ball with your head until you see stars. If it gets a little Lord of the Fliesish, you can always shake them off, draw up to full adult height and proclaim the power of your adulthood. They'll look up with sad, suddenly adult faces, and your misery will be mirrored in miniature.

You used to blame all messes on God, but it's not so easy anymore now, when even the staunchest believers want to become children again. You can become a staunch believer, but the mess will stay the same. You may feel like a child, but God doesn't feel like playing adult anymore. Global warming has affected God. He feels sleepy, lacks ambition, and would like a more adult God to fix the mess. That would be you now, wouldn't it?

Andrei Codrescu's new book is New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years Of Writing From the City (Algonquin Books).

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