September 24, 2007

On Childhood.

Posted in Personal at 9:19 am by Caleb Winn

We will do the undoable! We will think the unthinkable! We will consider the ineffable and see if we can’t eff it just a bit!

~ Douglas Adams, The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul 

I have a little 4-year-old friend named Emma, and on Friday night I was playing with her outside of a coffee shop, drawing with magic markers, singing songs, and helping her to catch crickets. This girl is so active, so full of energy and life and enthusiasm and curiosity. She is happy to run around and explore new places, and to sit down and create new things. Watching her at play is mesmerizing and, in a way, humbling. To explore for the sake of exploring! To create without self-consciousness, simply for the joy of putting crayon to paper! Would that I had such a taste for the sweet marrow of life.

There is a child-like sense of curiosity, the desire to know, and to learn, and to explore new things, that is an essential human characteristic. They have an innate desire to create, to express the beauty around us and to find a place in this world for the visible and musical expressions of love and joy. Children know better than most that the world is unfathomably large, and that excites them! It’s as if life is a great game, with grand and glorious surprises around every corner. It’s a shame if we ever lose that bold curiosity (as I am sure I had for many years, only to slowly begin to reacquire it).

At the same time, children may be afraid of the unknown. One child will take risks (for he knows not that they are risks!) to explore something new. Another will tremble under his covers, afraid of the dark. Indeed, the same child may do both: one part curious, one part coward. These stand in direct opposition with one another. Curiosity seeks to conquer the unknown, while fear of darkness hides from it. In the one case, children populate the hidden corners of their universe with thrilling fantasies and glorious adventures; in the other case the closets and the spaces beneath their beds become the homes of monsters too horrible to name. The vastness of the world becomes a source of fear, and not of hope.

When confronted with the unknown, we may boldly go where no man has gone before, or we may withdraw into ourselves in fear. These responses are easy to identify in the hearts of children, but they are not absent in adults. We may settle into the mundane routine of life, or we can continue to pursue education for its own sake. We may seek out new experiences and strange companions, or we can shut out anything dangerous or unusual, holding to our bleak suburban lives. Our gut-level response to the unknown will determine a great deal about how we live our lives.

Will I explore the 100-acre wood? Or am I afraid of the dark?

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