Monday, August 24, 2015

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

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—though I have reverted to the point where my speech is all but unintelligible and getting worse, 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 miss them or care.

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. I would most certainly not be a writer.

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 the trapped-in-the-physical-world part of me, and Dorien, whose realm is as unlimited as the imagination.

Dorien is my child within. He doesn't have to worry about the mundane. He is totally free to like bunnies. And toast with cinnamon and sugar (which Roger can no longer taste). 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 reaction 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 utterly harmless and fun. 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, as do I, and it is in the slow acceptance of and adjustment to reality that being childlike is lost. My life is built on a child's assumptions that everything is simple, with the result that I do not handle problems, negative challenges, or stress well. While I naturally assume, for example, that I can follow written instructions, this assumption lasts only to the point of attempting to translate the manual's words into action. I still expect it and therefore am condemned to bounce from one frustration to the next. My emotions are too often a child's emotions, and as a result disproportionately given to confusion, frustration, and anger; I seem unable to comprehend even the simplest things “grown-ups” deal with without a second thought.

Because I so naturally assume, I have never found it necessary to accept reality's total dominion, and as a result reality and I have become estranged to a point approaching open hostility. 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, and expect simplicity in all things, complexities lead to frustration and unhappiness far more frequently than I would imagine is the case with those 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. And I know full well 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 and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

I can appreciate everything you say here, D/R. There are times I miss being a kid, but then I didn't have the say-so to roam wherever I pleased (or as much). And I had rules to follow. Wouldn't it be something for those who believe in Heaven to be able to become a kid again where everything was as we imagined and expected it to be? Would that not make it worthwhile to go back to again?

I wonder...