Pixar’s delightful new film, “Inside Out,” confirmed a few things for me.
You can never pack too much tissue in your purse.
And we grown-ups have our work cut out if we hope to be as fully formed as we think we are.
Without spoiling anything, the animated movie by Bloomington native Pete Docter focuses on 11-year-old Riley, a Minnesota girl transplanted to California who is guided by five emotions:
Fear, sadness, joy, disgust and anger.
I left the theater guided by one frustrating question:
Where the heck did we adults stuff our joy?
Fear? Let us — not — count the ways we’ve grown afraid.
Sadness? Yes, we know real sadness by this point.
Disgust? Anger? Hard to witness projectile vomiting, or dodge a freeway texter, without being well-versed in those two.
But joy? Seems we left that one in a box marked “Childhood.”
Even actress Amy Poehler, who voices joy in the movie, acknowledged recently that adults forget how to embrace this particular emotion and release ourselves to sheer, unmitigated fun.
What if we fail? What if we look stupid?
I turned to a uniquely joyful man for answers.
Robert Fisch, who turned 90 in June, is a retired University of Minnesota pediatrics professor. He’s also a Hungarian Holocaust survivor whose beloved father starved to death in a Nazi death camp.
Yet, Fisch is an unabashed pusher of joy.
Adults ‘need real joy’
For nine years, he has gifted 10 to 14 medical students annually with up to $2,500 each. They must do just one thing to win it. “Have fun,” Fisch said. “That’s it.”
Able to escape their grueling medical studies for a bit, the students in their early to mid-20s have taken classes in Irish dancing, jewelry making, clowning and magic. They’ve cut an album, mastered hand balancing and practiced aerial gymnastics.
When the 2014-15 student awardees spoke at a celebration in May, their gratitude and awe at this unique opportunity spilled over.
Gina Piscitello, the 26-year-old daughter of an Irish mother, performed Irish dance. Thanks to Fisch, she took weekly lessons her fourth year of medical school. She’s now in a residency at the University of Chicago, hoping to continue dancing.
“It was an incredible experience,” she said, “and his example and advice will definitely make me a better doctor.”
Fisch hopes the students’ joy will continue to spill over into their 30s, 40s and beyond as proof that we cannot live fully if bound by fear, anger, disgust and sadness.
He refuses to live that way. He took up painting as an adult and also finds joy when transported by beautiful music. Adults, he said, “need real joy, so we can forget who we are, forget the world around us.”
Play, sing and daydream
So, before the 2015-16 Fisch Art of Medicine Student Awards are announced in late July, let’s create our own proposals to bring back that essential and essentially lost emotion.
If granted this wise and generous award, I will use my funds to build a sand castle, and I won’t fear its inevitable imperfections. I’ll buy putty knives for detailing, cement trowels for smoothing, paintbrushes for rounding and water sprayers to hold my precious, fleeting sand sculpture steady. I promise to spend an entire day with my toes in the sand.
If granted this wise and generous award, I will build a sturdy swing set in my backyard (OK, I’ll hire someone to build it) and I’ll escape to it at least once a day.
If granted this wise and generous award, I will head to MacPhail Center for Music and take voice lessons, and I won’t fear that someone might hear me sing.
If granted this wise and generous award, I’ll ride the Lake Harriet trolley every day for a month.
I’ll buy a Popsicle from an ice cream truck. (Or use my money to buy an ice cream truck. Hey!)
I’ll take a road trip without planning it first. I’ll learn hip-hop. (Sorry, kids!) I’ll finger-paint. I’ll nap in a hammock. I’ll go to the drive-in.
I’ll daydream without guilt.
Now, fellow grown-ups, it’s your turn.