T-Rex eats fox, or vice versa: Imagination and HOW THINGS ARE

“Dad, I’m a T-Rex and you are a tiny baby fox.”

I fear he has stacked the odds heavily in his favor.

Although, you never can tell. In his land of imagination polar bears still eat seals, yes. Just the same, sometimes seals go out on the ice floes hunting polar bears.

What follows is a fraught encounter with much wrestling and snarling, the slashing of pretend claws and gnashing of feigned teeth.

Laws of nature do not bind us. Creativity requires no adherence to truisms from the animal kingdom or even physics for that matter.

We can fly. We can be tiny. Or we can be, as my son (and the president) might say, “Very, very, very big.”

Cars may sprout Lego wings and also serve as boats. Giraffes or cats might pilot those craft.

Storybook worlds overlap, wrapping our play in vivid story lines reminiscent of scenes in books, fairy-tales, and the stories we make up.

I laugh a lot.

Except when I’m being eaten by a T-Rex or a seal.

These games show me how rigid the adult mind becomes compared to his free-flowing, mind-wandering creativity unbound by decades of viewing HOW THINGS ARE in the world around me. As I play along, I am always recalibrating on the fly what makes sense in my head to fit with our games. I’m reconciling what I know—or think I know—about the animal kingdom and driving cars and spaceflight.

This never makes me yearn for him to grow up. Instead I want to preserve every moment, every drop of his willingness to play, to create, to make up any thing that his mind conjures, simple or grand.

Because HOW THINGS ARE is little more than illusion anyway. Just the world poorly interpreted and fit into a construct less accurate than we imagine. A box that fits well enough, but not quite right. I think the people who shift paradigms and create the most amazing things are not necessarily better at understanding exactly how our world works, but better at looking past our habit of putting things in boxes. When it comes to how everything ought to be, they put on blinders, focus on possibility. More WHAT IF than HOW-TO.

One day my son may learn that seals don’t—under normal circumstances—prey on fully grown polar bears. My question: How can I help him grow up to make these discoveries without losing the wonder? The sense of possibility. How does he keep his mind flexible instead of brittle and bound by the typical? Plastic instead of rigid?

That is for each of us to figure out, I guess.

Right now he is a T-Rex.

And I am a tiny baby fox.

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