Retaining one’s childlike fascination is a rare gift.
Looking back at my own childhood, few things engaged me more than computer games. I’ve played a variety of games – I have walked around cities with guns, and lived out the quests of warriors and witches. I have controlled the destiny of cricket and football teams and the careers of their managers. My favourite games were ones where I gathered and utilized resources to develop civilizations.
While writing the previous paragraph, a mental reel of those virtual worlds played in my head, where I spent a large chunk of my childhood without the slightest realization. What did they do to hold my attention for so many hours?
We are born with a sense of awe for the world around us. Toddlers can spend hours, playing with blocks or the simplest of things – such as sand, water and pebbles. They stare at dogs, birds or a spinning top with wide-mouthed amazement.
And yet, as we grow up, we lose our fascination for the real world. We create virtual worlds, where we synthesize levels, quests, armies and weaponry to captivate us. Can we not pay as much attention to the trees in the garden, the varied shades of their leaves and the exquisite beams of sunlight that pierce through their canopy? Can we not have a sense of wonder for how honey bees dance to communicate the location of a bed of flowers several kilometers away? Can we not be struck by how some species of moths – a creature whose wings are too fragile to hold between our fingers, migrates from North Africa to Britain?
I am not sure what robs us of this amazement. It might be the education system. It might be the need to function in a world that we did not evolve to understand. Or it might just be the process through which humans grow up.
But the geniuses among us retain their childlike awe of the real world. They communicate this wonder through their work as scientists, artists and poets. Albert Einstein wrote in a letter to a friend – “People like you and me never grow old. We never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.”