As I go about the business of running my Childcare it is not at all uncommon to see a small child “zone out” and enter a sort of strange mental state which tends to be dismissed as abnormal, (if not actively discouraged).
In a sense any dismissal or discouragement of such child-like spaciness by an adult is humorous, for the very people discouraging the child’s odd behavior will, once they are “off work” and “free”, be seen attempting to resurrect similar odd behavior, midst the sterility of their own drab lives. If they don’t do yoga, or take drugs, or cut loose on a dance floor, they will secretly sob in the dark of a theater, (where sobbing is permissible). It seems a sly hypocrisy, or even schizophrenia, wherein one is Dr. Jekyll on the job, but becomes Mr. Hyde once one punches out.
While I recognize children do need guidelines, and that “a river without guiding banks is a swamp”, I try to be respectful of the fact children “zone out.” I try to avoid the attitude that sees children as “partially” developed, or “partially” anything. They are 100% human, and to treat them as anything less lessens them.
Anyway, as we grow, we mortals do a good enough job lessening ourselves without any help from “grown-ups”. It seems diminishing is necessary and a part of growing. This sad fact seems to have some basis in “brain science”, (which is still in its infancy and should be taken with a grain of salt).
“Brain science” suggests that at around age six the brain is overwhelmed by the sheer number of memories it has collected, and (like a person cleaning up a messy desk), the brain apparently throws a lot of stuff out. This can be seen by some sort of modern gadget that “sees” the synapses in a brain; there are more and more up to around age six, and then there is a sort of simplification, and there are fewer by age seven. Perhaps only the important synapses (whatever they are) are retained, but a side effect of throwing so many away is an amnesia often seen in the young, and often witnessed by “Childcare Providers”: A child can be your best buddy at age five, then leave for a couple years, and when you meet them again at age seven it is as if you are barely remembered; the child is seeing you from what seems like fifty years away.
However, for some reason this normal and natural amnesia failed to completely take place in my brain. My brain was defective. However, before you feel too sorry for me, understand that, as is the case with most handicaps, the defect was also a gift. I can remember stuff you are supposed to forget.
I think this defect is often seen in people who stray from developing ordinarily, becoming the somewhat impractical thing called “an artist”. The resultant quandary is wonderfully expressed in “The Logical Song” by the group “Supertramp”.
I don’t wish to now become entangled in the ordinary debate between the practical ants and the impractical grasshoppers, for I have been both in my time and know both are worthy of respect. There are two types of starvation, and the two sides supply two sorts of nourishment. Man cannot live on bread alone, but neither can man live on music alone. It’s best if the ants work in harmony with the grasshoppers, as I stated in a sonnet 43 years ago.
The poor ant works while the grasshoppers fiddle. The ant looks up to the sky with trust. The ant can't see God stands in the middle. The ant is shocked by the first locust. The locusts swarm and the fields are stripped. The ant's outraged, and it seeks its peers. Army ants march in tight ranks, grim lipped. Soon the last locust disappears. Thus there's no fiddling. Thus there's no grain. Thus we have nothingness. Thus we're insane. Thus all our efforts breed flourishing pain. Thus does humanity go down the drain. Pray for ecology; then there's a chance That grasshoppers will get along with the ants.
As I attend to small children at my Childcare I of course refer back to things I remember from my own childhood, which I suppose I ought not remember, but do.
Much is made problematic by people who cannot remember, but who call themselves religious authorities. They who cannot remember say I cannot remember. Why? Because my memories involve the idea of Life before birth, which is in some cases is more hotly debated than the subject of Life after death.
The people who cannot remember seem to feel we came from a place called “Limbo”. I don’t care what you call it, it was not the blank sheet some want to see it as. Children are born far too complex. It is part of what makes them 100% human from conception. Having held newborn identical twin infants in my arms, I can tell you even they don’t start out the same. Just as their fingerprints vary, they possess identities as unique as, or perhaps more unique than, snowflakes.
I also have the strong sense that these souls are coming from a beautiful place which has cleansed them and sent them into life with a beautiful purpose. What is that purpose? To escape eternal death.
Now here is where I really get into trouble. What is eternal death? Eternal death is the concept of reincarnation, where you are born over and over only to die over and over.
I attempt to avoid the topic of reincarnation, for it doesn’t really matter if you only live a single lifetime, or whether your “life” involves as many as 800 million bodies and 800 million deaths, (in a sense outliving even planets) as some Eastern Religions suggest. In either case the issue boils down to the same thing: Death is something we want to avoid. And little children are filled with the hope they are going to avoid it.
This hope is an extraordinarily beautiful and also illogical thing, in a world where death casts its shadow over even our most glorious reasons for rejoicing. Even if we should become king or queen of the entire world, in the end we die. It’s the ultimate bummer. Yet children are born with the insane belief that Life can triumph.
Of course, such naive hope will crash headlong into the inanities our world deems important. For example, does it really matter all that much if your daughter makes the starting lineup of the girls’ basketball team? However, a local father recently threw such a tantrum, (for what he thought was love of his daughter), it embarrassed everyone involved, including his daughter. In like manner, we do not need to look far to see many other cases of worldly stuff becoming overly important in our own eyes. Later we wonder how we could have worshipped such false gods. For a classic example, sometimes there once was a person we felt we would die without, if we failed to win their attentions, and yet they spurned us, and twenty years later that same person was bloated, and nasty, and we found ourselves thanking God we got spurned.
In such a classic case we live long enough to be glad we didn’t get what we wanted, but in other cases we want other things right up to our dying day, and then? And then we perhaps get the wages we’ve earned for chasing stuff of this world, and those wages are death. After death. After death. 800 million times. (According to some, but I cannot count that high.)
That being said, there would also be 800 million births, and each and every birth would be brimming with the possibility that this time would see a result other than death. This time would be different. This time, rather than the result being death, the result would be Life.
How could such hope be resurrected after so much failure? I can’t say, because I can’t remember. But I do notice I go to bed every night weary and wake up refreshed. I don’t ask too many questions about how that happens. And, if that is possible, it seems also possible that a person could die disappointed that a lifetime’s struggle resulted in dreary death, and yet be reborn full of insane hope.
In any case. I think you can see why such free thinking would get me in trouble with orthodox Christians, whom I very much admire and respect. Therefore, I ordinarily button my lip. After all, it doesn’t matter if your past goes back to Limbo or back 800 million lifetimes. What matters is the NOW. (A bit too Zen for some Christians, but clearly stated in their scriptures.) If we want to escape death and flee to Life, we have to understand the past has no hold on us. We are separated as far as the East is from the West from all the bunkum that drags us to yet another death, by the mercy of a Good Shepherd who treats us as a lost lamb (even if we are a lone wolf or loan shark) and Who is the only route to Life.
Of course, I am careful to confess none of this to customers of my Childcare. (Even if I wanted to, my wife would likely veto my big mouth.) Instead, I talk about fresh air and sunshine, and about our Childcare not allowing video games, and so on and so forth. But, likely because I’m now retiring from the business, I will tell the Truth. And the truth is I treat small children as if they are 100% human, and even as if they might be my grandparents, or my friends who died in Vietnam, or who knows who. Not that I know, but I also know I don’t know.
Such theory tends to be a gray area, and I don’t like gray, and flee theory to what I actually experienced, which my defective memory failed to forget. One memory in particular has been returning so persistently I think I should share it.
Back in 1955 my family moved into a wonderful, three-story house, basically a small mansion, built on a hill at the edge of a farm. The farmer’s grandfather had sold the land at a good price, and likely made more money during the mansion’s construction, and perhaps even more money building the beautiful stone walls surrounding the property, but despite profits there was some neighborhood sense that the house’s new, wealthy inhabitants were aliens, and a sort of enemy of the farming community, and farming traditions, and farming beliefs. Considering the house was built around 1869, there had been plenty of time to resolve such differences, but the former inhabitants failed. Therefore, we moved into a preconceived role of being bigwig snobs in “the house on the hill”, though my Dad was definitely down-to-earth and even demanded his children never go to private schools. How did we become aware we were seen as the enemy? It was because the small children of the “indigenous” people did not welcome us with a welcome wagon.
Back in those times the mail was actually driven up your driveway to your house and put through a slot in your front door, but we received messages through the mail-slot without stamps, which were rude. They said things such as, “You guys are finks.” Not that I had a clue what a “fink” was, but I did know my elder brothers bristled, and promptly headed off to put replies in the other children’s mail slots.
I wasn’t yet three when we moved in, and what this feuding meant is that from the get-go I accepted, as part and parcel of my reality, the idea we were the good guys, and “they” (whoever “they” were) were the bad guys. I did not know them, hadn’t met them, but in my childish way I just accepted the world as it was presented to me.
Yet at the same time I wandered about in what I can only describe as a sort of bliss. It was much like the part of the Supertramp song where the singer sings of the birds “playfully watching me.” When I grew older and sought to get back to such bliss, I called it a “Samhadi”. But when small I did no Yoga to “get there.” I smoked no weed to “get high”. I just occasionally got clobbered.
The time I wish to share with you involves the fact I tended to wander as a child, causing much concern when it was discovered I was missing, (and causing no concern if I got back before anyone noticed I was gone). Part of the concern occurred because on warm summer days I would wander off without a stitch of clothing on. I was so young I had no idea what the fuss was about. I was just curious and wanted to see things.
A good day to wander off was a Sunday, for back then enough Puritan tradition remained to pretty much close everything down on “The Day Of Rest”. Not that people felt compelled to go to church anymore, but nearly every place of business was closed. I think the only person who worked was the man who delivered the enormous Sunday papers. (The store that sold them wasn’t open until noon, but a bundle of papers sat in its front doorway, and so trusting were those times that people who needed a paper just grabbed one and left the price, (two thin dimes of silver), sitting on the paper beneath. By the time the store opened quite a trove of dimes sat on the papers, but I never heard of anyone taking any, besides myself, and my parents made me put them back.) (Another story for another day.)
On this particular Sunday I left my family sprawled out lazily regarding various section of the paper, wandering out into late April’s glorious sunshine. It was that magical time in early spring when the trees are still leafless but all budding out, so the bare branches seem in a haze of soft hues of raspberry and gold and indeed every color but summer green. It creates a light-filled ceiling that makes no shade. I wandered in a sort of enchantment, and rather than turning towards the quiet town and trafficless streets, I headed the opposite way.
I passed through the yard of the carriage house that was built for the original owners of my home. It had two bedrooms and a bathroom for a groom and stable-hand, and several garages on two levels, with rickety old carriages in the lower level, and an empty hayloft and a mostly empty room for saddles and harnesses, and a phone line to the other house. My parents were considering buying it for $2000.00 but felt the price was too high.
Just beyond that was a sandy lane with houses along the far side. Better than tenements, the houses were a little crowded together for the country. Each had perhaps half an acre of land. They had been built by the original farmer, who rented them to relatives. As I looked down the lane it abruptly struck me that I had wandered into the territory of the enemy. I’m not sure what I expected; perhaps dark stone structures with windows blazing florid reds beneath grinning gargoyles. Instead, I saw a row of very nice houses basking in spring sunshine, daffodils bobbing in a pleasant breeze on their lawns. In the far distance first one, and then another church bell began ringing. And that was when the Samhadi struck.
It was simply a sense of overwhelming wellbeing. Within such a feeling-no-pain mood I could not see anyone as a foe. It was utterly impossible. As I looked down the lane I simply saw we were neighbors, of the same community, united by a brotherhood strangely stronger than steel. But the feeling wasn’t cold like steel; it was cozy and warm and fuzzy and yet not trivial. It was the awareness that at its core humanity is indivisible, and all divisiveness is created by silliness. Competitiveness is a game. People choose sides and hide their cards from each other, but if push comes to shove, they can put down their cards, quit the game, and work together in unity. To think otherwise is ignorance. This may not be seen by the ignorant, but that is because they are ignorant, and unenlightened by the enchanting clarity of Truth.
Such a concept may seem a bit heady for a child aged three, but that is because it did not occur in the wordy form the above paragraph took. In fact, it was wordless, as all vision tends to be. But what it meant was that I could not see the children down the lane as foes. Or, I could eventually do it to a certain degree when they taunted me, but my heart was not in it. That was the power the vision had on me; I was strangely detached, as a child.
Then my question is, why was I so blessed? And my guess is that everyone is so blessed, but most forget the blessing, because they become so engrossed in the work of life. Then, later in life, some event may trigger the memory. Perhaps they fall in love. But sadly, they then fall out of love, and earn what being out of love earns you, maybe 800 million times.
Yet, when I see the bright-faced dreaminess of a child, full of wonder, I think to myself this may be their 800 millionth life, and this time they may get it right.
I was walking down the road, and talking In my secret way to Almighty God, Just grumping about banal things balking My wishes, when it struck me that it's odd I'm not turned to a cinder. Who am I To act like I'm the Creator's sidekick? Have I any idea, when I sigh, Who I'm sighing to? I'm dust He could flick Aside. Should I not be prostrate in awe Like Daniel? It's amazing to me The Shepherd knows each lone lamb, and foresaw Every bleat. There's nothing He can't see, Yet He has no desire to scare or bully us But leads us to Love that is most fully us.