The Steps to Nowhere
This summer, I visited the seaside on the Kent Coast. Whilst having a coffee and looking out to sea, these steps caught my attention. They literally led nowhere at all.
People walked, cycled, ran and pushed prams past them. On the whole, the steps were ignored. But then I noticed something interesting happening. Any time a group of children walked past, they would climb over the steps and play in and out of the railings. This happened again and again.
There was the toddler being carried by her Dad who insisted on being taken back to walk over the steps, the boy with the bicycle who looked as though he was seriously considering whether he could mount them, a couple of girls who kept coming back just to climb them.
Most adults ignored the children doing it (they'd probably seen them do the same thing thousands of times before). Some adults were a little irritated, some didn't seem to notice, sometimes parents would look on admiringly and, occasionally, some even looked slightly envious.
For the children, these steps to nowhere were a source of great fun. There was no ‘purpose’ to the steps above and beyond the sheer adventure.
Children intrinsically gravitate towards things that challenge them. And they take physical and mental joy in improvised and imaginative play. Who knows what those steps were to them? Perhaps a huge ship sailing out to sea, perhaps Mount Everest, perhaps the world’s most dangerous BMX track...
Why, as adults, do we lose this sense of play? Adventure, imagination and creativity are often conditioned out of us. We become afraid to take risks and allow our creativity to dull, in case we might look stupid. Yet, conversely, we know that taking risks is an important skill.
Imagine if we could all see the world as a playground, like the children who climbed those steps. It actually wouldn't take much.