A few nights ago, I was watching a rerun of the The Big Bang Theory episode “The Transporter Malfunction,” which is the one when Sheldon’s Mr. Spock action figure convinces him to take a rare toy (an expensive, vintage, mint-in-box 1975 Mego Star Trek transporter) that Penny bought for him of the box and play with it.
When I’m watching the show (whatever the episode), I usually find myself laughing with the characters; I sometimes find myself laughing at them; and every once in a while (even when I know the writers want me to laugh), I actually feel bad for them, especially the guys. This was one of those episodes, because it reminded me of how much of the show’s humor relies on the guys’ love of action figures, comics, model trains, role-playing games, toys, and video games – things we typically associate more with “children” than with “adults.”
The guys on the show all have meaningful jobs, ambitions, and relationships (however atypical or odd they may seem at first glance), and yet we laugh at them (not with them) because they still like to play with toys.
I thought a lot about Penny’s line to Leonard near the end of that episode – “I bought you this because I wanted you to have fun with it” – and her disappointment when she thinks he’s not going to open (and enjoy) the toy she bought for him (identical to the one she bought for Sheldon). Then I thought about the people that I know and the games and toys they still enjoy. I thought about Ellena and her board games. I thought about Carl and his Rubik’s Cube (and how I still have no idea how he ever solves that thing). I thought about Doug and Cody and their summer obsession with Pokemon GO (and how much good-natured grief I gave them about playing it). And you know what I remembered most about all of them? I remembered how much they smiled and how happy they while they were playing with them – or even talking about them.
It’s sometimes hard to find today, but the rarer it becomes, the more important it becomes. I don’t know why ever we’d laugh at anyone trying to find it, especially in such an honest, unassuming way. I don’t know why we’d devalue or belittle anything that lets us embrace our imaginations, remember our innocence, and reawaken our sense of fun, especially in a world that desperately needs all three. I don’t know why – or even how – we’ve let ourselves (and even our children) forget how (and why) to play, but it’s time that we all learn again, because we all, however young or old, still need that sense of wonder in our lives.