This year at Centralhallapalooza, let’s place a ball pit in front of the tent where the band plays. Although they may appear to be germ-filled cesspits, ball pits are spiritually cleansing.
Just a few years ago, the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. highlighted the ongoing popularity of ball pits by opening a temporary art installation called “The Beach,” which featured a 10,000 square foot pit in the main atrium. Thousands of people — more often adults than children — flocked to the museum for a brief dive back into childhood.
Even during work hours, it wasn’t uncommon to see a stray millennial at the pit, no doubt skipping out on the H Street scene. When he removed his suede Cole Haan shoes, his neon argyle socks stuck out prominently under the hem of his highwater pants. He then shed any of the other accoutrements of professionalism — a Mont Blanc pen, a never-used Moleskine, an iPhone — and shoved them into his shoes before entering.
He buried himself six feet deep in childhood. Because it’s a slow hour at the museum, and he was one of the only ones floating silently in a sea of white plastic, he felt like an ethereal being in his noiselessness.
And then — gone. He looked at his watch and saw that the market was about to close and remembered the dinner date with his dad at Morton’s. Childhood’s end.
Until time intervened, our millennial was redeemed. In a way, ball pits are like baptismal fonts. To enter, you must take off your shoes, for they are holy ground. You must forsake all material goods — coins, cigarettes, and pens — in favor of something higher. You must forget about those finals or editing that Somerville paper; you’ll likely get bad grades on them, anyway. Entrust yourself to the pit.
A ball pit won’t actually save your soul, but the way in which it brings you back to the innocence of those days at daycare or McDonald’s could be the memory that spurs your salvation. For although we hear a lot said about our education and how important it is to pursue truth and defend liberty, it is often a beautiful memory preserved from childhood that gives us the best education.
It’s those memories that are timeless and salvific. A plunge in a ball pit could draw up any number of joys long forgotten by the cynicism of adolescence. But that highest enjoyment of timelessness — floating in a sea of plastic — raises the soul above all that pretension in an ecstasy.
And behind the ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain. It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes everything we love. A sense of oneness. A rush of gratitude to whoever is up there — whether it be God or just lonely ol’ Steve Brule.
Of course, it all ends as soon as we leave the ball pit. But that’s why we must constantly return both to the pit and our childhoods.
For even though we may end up running the country on K Street, achieving distinctions, or falling into the deepest depravity — in any case, let’s never forget how good we’ll all feel at CHP, united in a ball pit by that inexplicable end-of-the-year fervor that has made us, for the time we loved each other, perhaps better than we actually are.