The world as playground

The wheel was virtually invented to be a child’s toy. The Trojan horse allowed into town to keep the children from crying. The earliest inscribed tablets were about children. It all started with children, and will continue with children.

Turkish Airlines flies the most advanced planes known to science, the most advanced planes of our age. When you fly, you are in a craft which is a miracle of human creation, exhibiting all the marks and inventions of civilization. And don’t forget either that the thing that is going to take you to the place you want to go is none other than the wheels in the belly of the plane. The wheel which is regarded by many men of science as the starting point in the process of human enlightenment. But really, why did man invent the wheel? Did he have a cart to attach it to?

The wheel was born as a toy! Children played with wheels and rolled hoops for centuries. Only much later did mankind discover the wheel’s carrying power and, thanks to that, embark on a quest that would culminate in the airplane you are flying on today! 

When we look out the window with the eyes of children, we invent stories that are very different and very far from the world of grownups, as in the case of the wheel. Why do you think the Trojans allowed into their city a wooden horse harboring enemy soldiers that would wreak disaster on their towns? The reason is quite simple: they couldn’t bear to hear the children crying! The children of Troy wanted to play with the horse, and their mothers and fathers could not resist their pleas. There’s always a child smiling or crying in at least one of the many snapshots we take on trips. Most likely totally oblivious to the fact that his photo was being taken. So can we adults just for once look at history, nature and life through their eyes?

The history of thinking about and trying to understand children and childhood is very new to us adults. In the Middle Ages a child was considered an infant to  age seven, and after that a smaller, adept copy of an adult. The French thinker Jean Jacques Rousseau suggested in his work ‘Emile', published in 1792, that a child was a being in and of itself with a unique psychology very different from that of an adult. According to Rousseau, every child was like a wild flower growing independently in nature. When we bring together photographs of children taken in the different countries of the world, we see that the French scholar was spot on. No matter how different the colors, smells, and clothing of the children in those photographs, each one is a flower, a flower exhibiting all the beauty and richness of the land and culture in which he was raised.

Children are a human legacy whose nature needs to be preserved unspoiled, even more importantly, to be exalted. Consequently expressions such as ‘being childish’ and ‘behaving like a child’ are completely wrong and go against human nature. Regardless of language, religion or color of skin, children mingle readily with one  another and make friends. Even if they quarrel it doesn’t take them long to make up. They don’t hold grudges, nor do they nurture hatred among themselves. In a children’s park in London I noticed how Indian, Chinese, Mexican and African parents sat side by side on benches without speaking to each other while their children played happily together in a sandbox in the middle. I myself was one of those silent ‘grownups’ on the bench. And my son was one of the kids!

We encounter a child even in the clay tablets of Sumer, the first example of writing in the world. A Sumerian father tells his son: “Be a man. Don’t hang out in the street. Look, never once in my life did I send you to dig in my field. Other boys like you support their families by working. But I never once told you to go out and work...”

Stories and fairy tales about children are told on every continent. While these stories, the work of adults, entertain children, they also provide clues to the world of us grownups. Stories representing children’s own worlds are better, wiser and more illuminating than ours. Akgün Akova, for example, who is well-known to Skylife readers, was driving down the street one day when his five-year-old son Fırat called out in from the back seat in a panic: “The moon went into a cloud, Daddy! The moon went into a cloud!” “Let it go, my boy,” replied Akova, “What’s to worry?”  Upon which his son answered, “But Daddy, on the Turkish flag the moon always stands alone!”

Even nature has its childlike sides. Do not the winds that cause great storms and gales become children again when turning a pinwheel in a child’s hand? Are not the giant ocean waves breaking on the sand like an obstreperous child playing with pebbles? And what about avalanches? Are you sure they aren’t big snowballs thrown by a mountain?

Nature is a child’s toy... be he African, European, Asian or American. We when look at photographs of the world’s children, we should recognize that every place we call ‘our’ city or country or continent is in reality just one big playground where we adults are only guests.

Before bowling pins were automatically reset by machines, children performed this task. Seated on a wooden bench above the alley, the child would right the toppled pins after each bowler’s turn and then spring back into his place. And funnily, the job  of putting the world aright after war and devastation still falls on the shoulders of the world’s children!

A six-year-old girl touring the Istanbul Toy Museum stops in front of one of the showcases to take a careful look. Exhibited in the case are two soldiers standing opposite each other with the butts of their rifles raised. “Look, Mommy!” says the little girl, “They are breaking their rifles!” “No, little one” replies the mother, “you’re mistaken. They aren’t breaking their rifles. They’re out of shells so they’re going to break each other’s heads with their rifles!” But the girl turns to her mother and declares stoutly: “No, Mommy. They want peace!”