Ship on a House

When was the last time you revisited a childhood pastime?

My wife and I saw the film, Saving Mr. Banks a few days ago, ushering us down the aisle of childhood nostalgia. To prepare for the film, we caught most of Mary Poppins playing on what  I'm sure was every television channel in the weeks leading up to Mr. Banks's release.  I had not seen Mary Poppins all the way through since I was young enough to believe that there was nothing strange at all about nannies flying through the air.  On the way to Mr. Banks, my wife reflected that she could remember watching Mary Poppins  completely accepting the idea of a ship on a house.

A child's wisdom is accepting mystery as part of the story.

It wasn't until she became an adult and watched the same film through her adult eyes that she questioned the idea of a ship on a house.  The sheer lack of logic is enough to confound anyone, except perhaps the children for whom the film was originally targeted.  As a child, my wife accepted the ship/house as a part of the story.  Sure, it was a mystery.  It was a part of the story that didn't fully make sense, but it still fit. If it needed to be explained, it would work itself out later.  As a child, my wife's mind was more flexible to the bends of the mystery.  Her young mind did not require an explanation for something that could not fully be explained, yet still fit within the world of the mysterious Mary Poppins.

Maybe you can connect.

Most of us will encounter a mystery every day.  Whether it is the mystery of the unknown future, "what will happen if we can't make this marriage work?" or a mystery of the unknown past, "If I just would have done this differently, then maybe..." With younger minds, perhaps we could live in our mysteries, approach them with a sense of flexibility, recognizing that they may not be immediately resolved, but at least they are still a part of the story.  Something happens to us as we get older, though.  Our need for certainty becomes greater.  Our tolerance for the unknown depletes.  With more responsibilities, we become less able to sit patiently with the tension of now, choosing instead to grasp for the false certainty of what might be or what could have been.

What is your ship on a house?

In Mary Poppins's world, the ship on a house served a purpose.  It kept time.  It did not matter that there was a much easier way to know what time of day it was.  What mattered was that you could always depend on the cannon's blasts to tell you exactly when it was.  That made sense.  In fact, it was kind of strange that everyone didn't have a ship and crew on top of their houses also.  Now, however, we forget that mysteries serve a purpose in our lives.  Instead, we want to know everything.  Everything needs to be explained.  When things are not explained, we retreat into fear.  When we don't have an answer for our fears, our uncertainties, sometimes we slip into criticism, anger, hatred, self-loathing, etc.  To be truly present with a mystery is to be vulnerable to it.  That's hard, and its a task that should not be taken alone.  We have to be willing to expose our mysteries to people we love.  We have to be willing to be open with them and to their influence.  Most of all, we have to be willing to let them see parts of us we may not be comfortable with ourselves.  The mysterious parts.  

Accept the mystery. Ask for help.

It may be helpful to recognize that the mystery of your situation cannot be solved by perfectionism or self-loathing.  It may not be able to be solved at all.  But it can be endured.  Try accepting whatever mystery has you wrapped up in uncertainty.  Take on the mind of your younger self, reach out for help, and be curious about how you can grow from not having all the answers you seek.  

Dr. Mathis Kennington