Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rediscovering a Child-like Outlook

When did bed time become a good thing? What ever happened to all those millions of excuses we used to offer for just five more minutes before we’d surrender to the sheets? When did a stick become just a stick rather than the shining saber that it used to be? When did it become blasphemous to walk on top of a wall instead of along side it? How come there are no more dragons to kill, or fair maidens to rescue?

When did the moon stop following our family car at night? Is it following somebody else now? Maybe we bored it too much. When did clouds stop forming circus animals and just start blocking the sun?

How come I don't get a prize when I order a Big Mac combo? When did a cup of coffee take preference over a mug of hot chocolate with mounds of whipped cream, sprinkles, and a cherry on top? How come I can't have my dessert first and eat the rest only if I have room for it? When was it that I began to like vegetables?

Why do I have to eat chicken with a fork and a knife when I go out to a restaurant? If God had meant that, do you think He would have ever made the drumstick? Do you think they would call it a drumstick if we weren’t supposed to pick it up with our hands. What would Roll Over Beethoven sound like if Ringo had to hold his drumsticks with a fork and knife?

How come there are no pictures in grown-up books? Who says the black lines in a coloring book are better art than the colorful scribbles that go outside?

How come they don't carry silly string in hardware stores? So when did couch cushions become just couch cushions, rather than the fortress they were always meant to be?

I wonder, which is more mature, an "adult bookstore", or Toys R Us? How come now that we can actually afford our own pony, we'd rather buy a Dodge Colt, Ford Mustang or Bronco instead of the real thing? Are we, in reality, still just pretending?

And one question I just can't seem to find an answer to: when did work become more important than playing? It used to be that messing up the room was more desirable than picking it up. I wonder what would happen if some day at work we all just decided to play kick-the-can instead of the ridiculous "grown-up"(?!?) games we play at the office.

I can’t tell when it was that I changed, but at some moment I stopped seeing the world through the eyes of a child and started to think like a grown up. At that moment I lost something that I want back, not just innocence or naiveté, something more. I lost a way of looking at things with curiosity and inventiveness. I began to know the answers so I stopped asking the questions. Lately I’ve discovered that asking good questions takes more wisdom than telling good answers.

The artist Henri Matisse said toward the end of his prolific career, “I spent the first thirty years of my life trying to paint like an adult, and the rest of my life trying to paint like a child again.” Perhaps we should rethink this whole grown up thing and try seeing the creation through the eyes of a child once again. In fact, that seems to be the only way that makes sense to me. I can’t even imagine what new things we would learn and create if we did.

A 3 year old will learn more lifelong and life-enhancing content in the next year than I have in the last ten. And I think she'll enjoy the year a whole lot more than I will as well. We can learn a lot from children, if we'd let them be the teachers more often and we became the students again.

“Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 18:4

1 comment:

John Barcanic said...

Yes, yes, and yes! Thanks Neil for the reminder to remain curious, to hold on to wonder, and to allow myself to live in awe.

Too often a quasi-hip skeptical aloofness and cynicism substitute for actual maturity.

I think I'll go borrow my neighbor's kid for a tutoring session.