Browsing in a used bookstore the other day, I came across an
original hard cover copy of “Where the Wild Things are” by Maurice Sendak, a
marvelously playful romp into childhood’s dark side. The story’s hero, Max, escapes
the drudgery of parental rules to create his own world of scary creatures where
anything seems possible, where life’s exciting beauty traverses the imagination
without, for a short time, limit.
Max must eventually return to society’s defined reality, but
with the whispered caveat that our secret world of creativity will always be
there when needed, when we find that society’s rigidity of form can’t meet the
needs of body, mind, or soul.
Can an equilibrium of these three uniquely human traits
comfortably coexist in today’s world, and if so, is this even desired?
The pendulum’s swing overshoots the mark in everything we do,
both as individuals and in our social groupings, manifesting perpetual struggle
and internal and external conflict. Are the impermanent borders between body,
mind, and soul the root source of life’s trials, the ultimate reason for the
physical, intellectual, and emotional pain that we all must endure at various
points of the journey before it transforms beyond our ken through the
inevitability of death?
It is not the pursuit of perfection that makes for great
art, it is the perceived flaw that makes the masterpiece. Only the spark of
imagination can explore where gritty meets sublime, distorting the boundaries
between body, mind, and soul, ushering in that unique balance of distress and
comfort that makes us human.
This has always been the challenge. In an era of intellectual absolutes, with science transcending toward religion with increasing speed, might the pendulum be moving beyond a moderate range, threatening to decimate our innate hubris, perhaps leaving us to flourish–for a while–where the wild things are?