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Neoteny – Childlike Attributes In Adulthood

Just finished reading an interesting article on The New York Times site about innovation and the evolution of the Internet Protocol standard. At the end of the article the author finishes off explaining that Neoteny – his favorite word, means the retention of childlike attributes in adulthood such as idealism, experimentation and wonder and that these are exactly the attributes we need to have in this our new world – that we need to teach the next generation to retain these attributes also to help them be world-changing innovative adults in their time.

My father has often said – in exasperation – that I am SUCH an idealist – which I had always thought of as a detrimental character flaw. I know myself to have a tremendous sense of wonder about my world and you can readily see from my images that experimenting is central to what I do.

For much of my life I have felt displaced – like I didn’t belong in this time – that my idealistic nature was too radical or dreamy eyed and impractical for my time – at least this was so in my youth. Reading this last paragraph I feel vindicated, that perhaps I’m not in the wrong time after all. Perhaps I am well placed to help. Perhaps my constant stream of crazy, freely associated, ideas and dreams aren’t SOOO CRAZY after all. That its okay to dream big and aim high even if my dreams end up shifted or mutated in their final realization.

I’m glad too because Nicky and I have always felt it was essential to encourage our son’s sense of wonder in the world and to enable him to be independently minded, even when that has produced time consuming and tiring arguments that are difficult to counter – its so much easier to say to your kid “do as I say not as I do”.

In short I don’t feel so bad any more. This article has reaffirmed – for me at least – my position as a useful member of today’s society. It turns out I DO have something of value to offer after all.

Now I hope I still have the strength of character to pull it off.