I’ve been thinking about childhood. The freshness and innocence, the naiveté and helplessness, the curiosity and amazement at every new thing–and everything is new–and of the naturally self-centered universe one forms because self is all one knows. I’ve been thinking about how all of these qualities, so clear and natural in childhood, repeat throughout our lives in cycles. Varied by age and circumstance, and certainly by our own personalities as they develop, but there and recurrent all the same.
I’ve been thinking about how little we are all aware of these cycles and patterns in ourselves over time. We humans, though we congratulate ourselves as Homo sapiens, intelligent beings, are poignantly–sometimes poisonously–unwilling and even unable to truly see ourselves all that clearly. It’s not terribly hard to be self-aware, to know the good and bad of one’s personality and character and style, but it’s amazingly uncommon that we choose to acknowledge it, let alone are able and willing to do anything useful to control or change what we can or should. Most of us are rather childlike, if not infantile, in that respect. We want forever to be loved and be the center of the universe in that way we sensed we were as small children, before knocking up against whatever form of reality dented that illusion for the first time.
For the very fortunate (like me) it’s easy to look with a critical eye on those who are in the midst of childlike neediness because of their poverty, ill-health, lack of education or resources, old age or difference from the popular norms. Easy to forget that I don’t have the same obvious petulance or beggarly qualities only because I am so fortunate, so well off and well fed and loved and young and-and-and. I am the lucky center of my universe for now. It’s simple to be placid when I’m so rich.
I can only hope that this good life not only continues to keep me content, but that it affords me the leisure and good grace to look a little less harshly on the struggles of others. To be more patient and understanding when someone else is in that childlike state of need, whether for the starkest, plainest of dignities–sheer life not being at imminent risk–or for food and shelter, for health and wholeness, for peace and hope. If I can’t be an agent of change, bringing those gifts to those who need them, at least I must try to remember what it is to be in that fragile state and know how much I depend upon the rest of the world myself for being, by contrast, not in my childhood of utter need.