Friday, December 28, 2012

before the blush sets in

"When we can play with the unself-conscious concentration of a child, this is; art: prayer: love." 
--Madeleine L'Engle

Each conversation I've had with a small young child this week has impressed upon me just what a gift it is to be young, and to exist in a bubble of safety, guarded and protected from the big scary world. I can see why if a parent could give such a gift to their child why they would. And why anything that threatens to burst the bubble of safety would immediately be deemed public enemy number one.

Although the lack of perspective that a young child has is sometimes frustrating, it's a blessed thing. One small girl, who was all smiles and song one moment, burst into tears spontaneously, because the strain of being separated from her mother was all of a sudden too much for her, and she just broke down. No one or nothing else in the world was present for her except the fact that her mother was not there, and she needed her to be.

This three-year-old has clearly figured it all out. Just look at that outfit.
I imagined, when I was ten, that by the time I was fourteen, I would know everything I needed to know.
I assumed that sixteen-year-olds had figured out the world.
And there was absolutely nothing my mom did not know. I just knew that one of the requirements to be a mom meant knowing everything. No one had to tell me this, this was just one of the facts of my world.

There's a strange series of imperceptible events that happens when you grow up, in which you realize that your parents are not invincible and do not know everything. The world of grown-ups is not glamorous and carefree; right and wrong aren't as clearly delineated as heros and dragons; and life is a lot more perilous and treacherous than you imagined. Also, the world does not seem to understand this concept of Fairness that you have nursed in your heart since preschool, where everyone Took Turns.
It seems like all the grown-ups have forgotten what they learned in preschool.
And when you protest to your mom that something is not fair, her enigmatic and unsatisfying response is:
"Life's not fair."

And at first, that seems like an egregious injustice. How can all these strange grown-ups shrug off this immense problem with a glib phrase?? Has the world gone mad??


I was sitting in the lobby of a theatre, nestled in a corner, reading by the big Christmas tree.
A little girl ran up to the tree and just looked at it.
Then she started singing "Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree--" she stopped as soon as she saw me.
She paused, blushed, then ran back to her mother.

I wish I hadn't been there, so she could have sung to the little tree uninterrupted. 
But I was so enchanted by her utter lack of awareness of the outside world: that moment was hers and hers alone--to sing her little song to the beautiful Christmas tree.


I can only receive the lack of fairness in the world as one of the greatest gifts. It does not seem fair that beauty should continue when there is so much sorrow. Nor does it seem fair that human beings commit such unspeakable atrocities against one another, but a the world is full of things which make us smile and laugh. I can't believe in fairness when we find peace in forgiving unforgivable acts. 
It seems completely unfair that love can outlast death; that, in the end, love and life have the last word. Pain seems to be the one thing in this world that is forever, but they say nothing is forever.
Except love.
It's a mystery I will never understand, but I can't help thirsting to anyways.

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