“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14
What makes a beloved childhood adorable, to so many of us, may be the child’s exuberance, creativity, playfulness, and imagination. A child’s emotional honesty is also compelling. While adults harbor complicated infatuations, children respond to kindness with openness and generosity — from wherever it comes. Although children will shrink from cruelty, usually they keep no record of wrongs (unless their trust is betrayed) nor do they play the victim. Adults hold grudges, propelled by self-righteousness and victimization.
Feelings flow through children: sadness, anger, or boredom can give way, relatively rapidly, to joy, peace, and rapt interest. If only the hearts of adults were not so frozen over by despair, disappointment, and even (occasionally) deceit, they might regenerate their joy in life, easily. Children, attracted by a joyful heart, would visit them, unhiindered, to play games or to rest and to be renewed.
Besides the expressive and emotional qualities of children, which are enlivening and rejuvenating, the miracle of a child is that he or she enters the world already equipped with an intact personality and innate gifts. How do such well-formed persons emerge from invisible dimensions? Biology can trace the material foundations of life, and describe the human person in terms of DNA, without ever touching upon the mystery of the incarnation of life (in earthly and visible from) from a transcendent source (which is heavenly and invisible). Astonishing.
Children generally show a benign indifference to their own limitations — (at least until they are much older or until they are socialized to inhibit themselves). For instance, one child I know draws elaborate maps of neighborhoods in his native city. After doing so, every afternoon, he moves onto singing while making videos of his performances. After these activities, he has a snack and takes a rest. Next, this curious child mops the floor of the kitchen. Fascinated to experience this thing, too, he slides on suds of soap. What may be a chore to an adult is fun and a game for a child. The child reads or acts out a skit. At dinner time, he helps the adults to cook by cutting vegetables.
By way of contrast, consider how adults behave. Clutching to their talents and contributions, adults develop an identity in the world from which to derive their self-esteem. In the longer run, this identity may deprive them of spontaneity and joy.
Let us suppose that an adult proficient at maps becomes an engineer or graphic design specialist. Thanks to awards, this hypothetical person gets jobs based on such skills. Once commodified, however, the skill in question is liable to become something clung to for fear of loss. Furthermore, as the engineer in question compares his or her talents to those of others in the field, this act of comparison may tempt her or him to indulge in arrogance or envy.
Once talents are defined, owned, and commodified by people and economies, people can become burdened by their gifts by losing flexibility. The graphic designer with expertise at visual art holds him or herself back from performing songs: “After all, I’m a graphic artist not a musician. And by the way, I will hire somebody to mop my floor and cook for me since those chores are no fun.”
Let us as adults become like children. We shall move to the center of our being– to that spontaneous, creative place. Letting go of ideas of who we are, and who we should be, we dispense with limiting beliefs about our talents and our deficiencies. We explore our joys and interests. Experimental, playful: such are qualities of children. Freedom.