What I Learned Playing the Wolf-boy | Part I

Lou Chaney Jr. as the "wolf man" in 1941
Lou Chaney Jr as "the wolf man"
in 1941.
Walking home from Live Oak Elementary School in 1979 on a particularly rainy day, I recall getting bored with the long walk. Carrying my bright-yellow and bulky Crayola Backpack, I figured: What better thing to do than to pretend to be the wolf man? And that I did. The rain hitting my coat-covered head and shoulders, I listened to the tapping of the salty, dirty rain as I growled like I perceived a good wolf-man/boy would. Cars drove by and I stayed in character, being only a little afraid. The game would end as soon as I walked up my driveway. The driveway was about a mile away. Each car was just another thing wolf-boy could bounce off of because he was cool!

In that wonderful state of mind, I had the look, strength, moves, and abilities of the mighty wolf man. He could leap from building to building and house to house. I suppose I had seen it a weekend or so before, probably as I stayed up late and hid behind the big blue living room couch as dad watched Saturday Night Shockers.

For those too young to remember, Saturday Night Shockers would always play a horror movie at 10pm every weekend. This was during the days of six or eight channels on a big, blocky, pear-green analog TV, and three of those channels were Spanish channels and one a public access channel. I was never allowed to watch Saturday Night Shockers because I would not be able to sleep afterwards. Smart move by mom and dad. 

But the wolf man never scared me. In fact, he appealed to me. I wanted to be him. There’s something fun about just playing. While doing so, you have no pretense, no reputation to uphold, no logistics to worry about--and only who, if anyone, was going to be joining you as a character in the game. And it’s all a game, a game that will end, but one you will enjoy all the while playing it. There are no limits. One might as well have created a new world when in a state of play. 

Such is this (real?) world, with the only difference being that we have mistakenly come to the conclusion that this world is not a game, but "real" (whatever that means). The word “persona” as used in a play simply meant “mask.” You never come out as yourself in a play, only with a mask. So the persona you play is all about being...a fake, a mask, a put-on, playing a character for a show of someone who is not you. When life is seen in such a way, you leave behind the wonder of how-this or how-that, choosing instead to allow your creative side to provide answers to those technical questions. And so you emerge, confident that your out-of-bounds plot will be easily executable. Only when we bring this mentality to the work/everyday world will we allow discoveries that create options for us, including breaking out of any ruts we are stuck in or else overcoming, such as a state like writer's block. 

We are only ever limited by our rejection of creativity, by the putting off of the irrational, by severing our connection with spiritual or creative ideals. When I grab a handful of rubber bands and squeeze them or else play with a laser pointer in the trees, I do not seek to know why or how it will give me a breakthrough. I simply know that it will. 

When a child or a bear cub plays, they are not only preparing for the adult world, but are showcasing their vital energies—the same energies that result in taking up multiple hobbies, caring for animals, learning to play instruments, becoming activists or volunteers, and otherwise setting personal breakthroughs that may define them in future years. 

As I age, I find over and over again that my child version of me has much to teach me. Nowadays, I only seek to unlearn all of the limiting beliefs I have acquired over the years, going back to the very source of play behind everything I ever wanted or thought I wanted. Mixed with my acquired knowledge and wisdom, I find that I can achieve the breakthrough I seek in whatever I am doing. My mature self knows this today as Wu-wei, the art of "doing / non-doing."