Monday, July 18, 2011

The Child Within

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. -- Corinthians 13:11, American King James version

As with so many things, what is true for most people is not necessarily true for me. I may no longer speak as a child, but I consider retaining the ability to understand and think like a child to be a great blessing. Children are born with priceless gifts: wonder, unquestioned trust, and infinite hope, all of which reality tends to steal away over the years until little--and sometimes nothing--of the gifts remain. They are stolen so gradually that we don't even realize they're gone or, far worse, that we don't care or miss them.

Far from putting away childish things--and I prefer to substitute "childlike" for "childish"--I have clung to them, cherished them, and nourished them. I would not be who I am had I let them fade away or to be stomped out of me by reality.

Whenever I am asked for a biography, I often begin with the same sentence: "When I was five years old, I never wanted to be six." And it is absolutely true. Strange as it may sound/seem, though I chronologically and physically crossed the line between boy and man well over half a century ago, I have never considered myself to be a fully-developed "adult." To me, "adult" is synonymous with "grown-up," and like Peter Pan, I've never wanted to be a grown-up.

Interestingly, as a child, I never had imaginary friends. But today I take a childish delight in having divided myself into Roger, who is in charge of the "mature," daily-life part of me, and Dorien, whose realm is my imagination.

Dorien is my child within. He doesn't have to worry about the mundane. He is toally free to like bunnies. And toast with cinnamon and sugar. And lying on his back in the tall grass on a warm, silent summer afternoon staring up at the clouds and seeing the wondrous forms and faces and animals within them. He's been around long enough now that he frequently totally takes over with those few friends who know how deeply a part of me he is. One of those friends just sent a message referencing some article which concluded with the line: "We'll all end up having to worry about rabbits." My instant, without-a-moment's-thought response was: "Dorien is always worried about rabbits: do they have enough to eat? Do they have someplace nice to live? Do they wear their mittens when they go outside to play in the winter? Ageless questions."

Those hardened into the shell of adulthood will undoubtedly find that sort of thinking silly, affected and childish. I prefer to think of it as sincerely fun and child-like. It's the way my mind works and has always worked, and the veneer of adulthood has never gotten thick enough to repress it.

But again, as with all things, being child-like has its down side. Children expect more than reality can deliver, and it is in the slow acceptance of and adjustment to reality that being childlike is lost. I have never accepted reality's total dominion, which is why reality and I have become estranged. I am truly incapable of understanding why things cannot be as I expect them to be--which is to say, as they should be. Because I expect life to run smoothly, effortlessly, and without conflicts, I do not handle problems, negative challenges, or stress well. Because I expect simplicity in all things, complexities lead to frustration and unhappiness far more frequently than I would imagine is the case with those who I would consider fully-developed adults.

And while I feel very sorry for those who have lost their inner child, I am not so far removed from reality as to refuse to acknowledge that in many ways their lives of non-resistance are easier than mine. I know that in the end reality always wins. But with me, it won't be without one hell of a fight.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's "Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs."

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