Unburdening responsibility upon a greater mind than mine, let us hear what Carlyle has to say (when he unburdens responsibility upon his own fictitious inventions):
In all the sports of Children, were it only in their wanton breakages and defacements, you shall discern a creative instinct: the Mankin feels that he is a born Man, that his vocation is to Work. The choicest present you can make him is a Tool; be it knife or pen-gun, for construction or for destruction; either way it is for Work, for Change. In gregarious sports of skill or strength, the Boy trains himself to Cooperation, for war or peace, as governor or governed… (Sartor Resartus).Boys, in short, must play at being men if they are to become men. This is not to say that Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, but then again, men will be incomplete without having sensed victory and pleasure, and, perhaps more importantly, defeat and pain. Furthermore, they must be given the freedom to build and fashion, to be frustrated and to bleed. We wrap our boys in cotton wool at their peril, for the adult world will not cushion their falls. The chips of life fall in much the same way in childhood as in adulthood, but the stakes are not so high. A boy needs to learn to win with magnanimity and to lose with humility (and to resolve to win the next time) before the blinds become too big.
The Playing Fields of Eton, by Edmund Bristow (1822)
What does this mean in practical terms? Nothing more than the rough-and-tumble, active life, indoors and out, that some of us took for granted. I wonder, nervously, how many boys now enjoy this kind of experience. There is so much fear, and so few playing fields, that kids are cloistered, attached umbilically to their video games and gadgetry. Perhaps the most fundamental step, therefore, is to unplug.