Preschool Geographic

"Hey, look at these boombahs!," one kindergarten boy told another. "Wow!," said his friend. They were sitting side-by-side in the library looking at a book.

Was this a flashback to my Sixties male classmates pouring over National Geographic pages to marvel at large, dangling gender differences? Yikes! I'm not sure I want the preschoolers discovering this stuff while I'm overseeing after-lunch free time.

Was it a case of phonic huh-huh-hubba-buh-buh-bubba? I tuh-tuh-tuh-tippy-toed up behind the boys, who were still gazing appreciatively at the picture.

"Guys," I said in my most Jane Goodall-ish voice. "Those animals are called baboons, not boombahs." [There must be an inflection of "dudes" to convey this information!] "Oh, yeah," they remembered.


Baboons who live in the African plains spend about one-third of their time sleeping, and when awake they divide their time between travelling, finding and eating food, and free leisure time - which basically consists of interacting, or grooming each other's fur to pick out lice. It's not a very exciting life, yet not much has changed in the million years since humans evolved out of common simian ancestors. The requirements of life still dictate that we spend our time in a way that is not that different from the African baboons. Give or take a few hours, most people sleep for one-third of the day, and use the remainder to work, travel, and rest in more or less the same proportions as the baboons do. And as the historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie has shown, in thirteenth-century French villages - which were among the most advanced in the world at the time - the most common leisure pursuit was still that of picking lice out of each other's hair. Now, of course, we have television.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, from Flow.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

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