Growing up, most children seem to have at least a brief phase when they want a pony. There’s a good market out there for horse-related products aimed at little girls. Have a pink sparkle unicorn school binder, a Breyer collectible, and a coloring book. Because while this passion for horses is some kind of truth of childhood (at least in the US), very few children will ever get that real pony with a ribbon around her neck.
Unless, of course, you grow up on a horse ranch like I did.
(For reference, ponies frequently have appalling personalities and a propensity for bad behavior. They are little balls of fluff and rudeness.) Whatever else can be said about my social life during grade school, this aspect of my life had some serious value to some of my classmates. At least one girl maintained a casual friendship with me for the sole purpose of being invited over to see the horses on a Saturday afternoon.
I, however, couldn’t have been more bored. Horses meant corrals to be cleaned, emergency drives to the equine hospital, and parents occupied with caring for someone else for most of the day. They were the permanent baby siblings I hadn’t exactly signed on for. I saw our horses every day. I liked them, or didn’t, on an individual basis. That baby kicked me and I’m holding a grudge. This one makes a funny face if I tickle his nose right. Horses could be fun, or annoying, or upsetting, or calming. They were never fascinating, though.
(Truth: I did, nonetheless, collect Breyers. Toy horses have significantly fewer annoyances associated with them.)
To this day, I forget. I forget that my lifestyle is special and unusual to other people. I forget that they want to hear about it and understand the secrets I take for granted. I forget that, just as I am weirdly interested in the daily lives of mechanics and painters and trash collectors, other people are interested in the daily life of a rancher. (Or a writer.) Only when something goes wrong do I remember that horses are strange and delicate and complex, harder to fix than I would like, and that life with them is anything but dull.
I forget that everything is boring and everything is fascinating, depending on who is doing the living and who is doing the looking.
Some day in the future, space travel with be an annoying routine. People will complain about the traffic at the space station and the line of ships backed up at the wormhole entrance. They’ll complain that the food synthesizer on board is making everything taste like licorice AGAIN. Exploring new planets will be someone’s daily grind. It has very little to do with the reality and everything to do with our perceptions. Do something enough and it becomes boring. Invisible. Often, catastrophe is the only thing strong enough to shake us up: scare us, and we start to look at our own lives with the eyes of strangers.
Humans will need to remember: anything can be boring, anything can be fascinating. If we forget, life has a way of sending a little mayhem in to remind us.