Although through force of circumstance I am very much a peripheral figure in their lives I’m fascinated by my two grandchildren, Charlie who is 3½ and Jack who is 1½. They love to play and have fun and Charlie is a proper boy, boisterous and fearless, Jack has yet to find his feet, but is certainly beginning to find his voice.
Walking with Charlie, I am struck that, whilst I am always conscious of the dangers that might befall him, for him it’s an endless parade of fascinating sights and sounds, friendly strangers, police cars, tractors and buses. And play, play is a series of inventive scenarios, often without any physical props, just the product of his vivid imagination which he expects you to wholeheartedly embrace. To him the world is fun!
At some point we become jaded and world weary and lose our sense of childish fun. Admittedly, as adults, childish behaviour is not going to be appropriate in most situations, but there are some useful lessons we can learn from observing children at play.
1. Live life in the here and now.
Probably the most important lesson we can learn from children is to enjoy the here and now. They are really good at it and are rarely thinking about anything but, so absorbed they are with all that’s happening now. How many of us can claim the same? Enjoy the present. The past is gone and can’t be changed, the future, you can’t predict it and it hasn’t happened yet.
2. Free your creative side
Children love to paint, make cupcakes, make play dough, build Lego. Creativity is not only fulfilling, it’s fun!
3. Lift your head
Most adults go through the day consumed by their own thoughts, rarely noticing or appreciating their surroundings in much detail. If you’ve ever observed a child examine a leaf, an insect, a frog you can see that their fascination with the world around them is endless. Lift your head and enjoy the world around you.
4. Take risks
Children have no barriers when they’re growing up, very little fear of failure, they will explore new things, take risks and are rarely self conscious. What’s stopping you learning something new, taking a few risks too?
5. Be Silly!
Children are the past masters of silly! A simple word can be repeated time and time again to fits of giggles, trucks smashed endlessly together – just for fun. Let your silly side out now and then, be unpredictable once in a while, break a few ‘rules’!
My Mum always used to say that things have changed far too much. She was born in 1925, so she did see some dramatic changes in her life time.
Most of those changes have been positive, but the explosion of the world’s population from an estimated 2 billion in 1925 to an estimated 7 billion plus now, has had a profound effect on the demand for the world’s resources and, in turn, on groups who have traditionally lived their lives much like their ancestors.
One such people are the reindeer herders, known as the Tsaschin, or Dukha, who for thousands of years, have roamed the taiga of northern Mongolia, a wilderness of mountains, forest, rock and ice which straddles the country’s border with Siberia. The herders rely on their animals for hunting and transportation, and for the staples of their diet: milk, cheese, yogurt and dried milk curds.
For months on end they move around, looking for fresh pastures for their reindeer, hunting and camping on open ground, relying on their dogs to alert them of wolves. They do go in to town, to buy flour, bullets and salt. Apparently reindeer love salt and the Tsaschin round up their herd by rustling an empty salt packet.
Their way of life is increasingly under threat and the Tsaschin’s herds have fallen from more than 2,000 in the 1970s to less than one-third of that today. The reasons for this are manifold, from the lack of interest from the Tsaschin young, exposed as they are to the relentless advance of modern technology to the refusal of the Mongolian government to allow the import of of reindeer from Siberia, Canada or Scandinavia to address the inevitable consequences of inbreeding amongst the Tsaschin herds, which has meant a weakening of the overall health of the stock.
But there’s another more depressingly inevitable factor that will probably end the Tsaschin’s nomadic way of life, man’s insatiable appetite to strip the earth of it’s natural resources. Like all nomadic people, the Tsaschin roam great areas, but they have no recognisable rights to the land they’ve used for thousands of years and now the mining companies have moved in to the taiga. Mongolia is rich in copper, gold and coal and is home to one of the 10 largest copper mines in the world and the advance of these operations is denying the Tsaschin access to land they once called their own.
The fate of all nomadic peoples is precarious, as the march of technology and the demand for raw materials continues, and it looks inevitable that a way of life that has existed for millenia will slowly die. It’s hard not to feel empathy for them, after all, we were all nomads once.
The programme on BBC Radio 4 that inspired me to find out more http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01knbgg
Further reading: http://www.homelands.org/worlds/mongolia.html