Children have a way of seeing things adult minds cannot. If you show an adult a daffodil, they will call it a “flower.” If you show a child, a daffodil they might call it a “flower” or they might call it a “star” or a “face.” And who is to say they’re wrong? Perhaps our stuck adult minds have it wrong. Perhaps that is why so many of us are so stuck in the same patterns, unable to change, unable to grow, unable to live in wonder.
When my defenses are down, I am still a child at heart. I want nothing more than to be nurtured and accepted. I can see wonders where others don’t. On these days my soul is a guest house, it lets it all in, love, hate, beauty, ugliness without discrimination, but with acceptance.
But my inner child is terrified. Yours is probably too. It wants badly to protect itself, badly to feel safe. When it feels unsafe, it fights. Vulnerability is its enemy. Strength needs to be shown, my adult voice says, over and over. To be an expert, to feel powerful, to accumulate are the only ways through this life. I’ve thought about this with regard to money. What is money but a symbol of power, an infantile desire to feel safe above all else? If money was about security and freedom, the drive to accumulate it would be tempered. Like Thoreau, we would be happy to have a home, food, clothing, water, friends, and family. (Personally, I’d like as many books as I could possibly have also). Yet most of us have the drive to keep going… I wonder about the wisdom of that.
Desire only fuels more desire. The desire for more money means to be never satisfied. And the adult mind is never satisfied. Most of us live in the netherworld of boredom and stress with few joys in between. In today’s world, our entertainment options are endless, yet many times I still feel bored. From this very living room where I write, I can listen to any album I want to, watch any movie or television ever created, play thousands of video games, read any book ever written or watch countless hours of free content on youtube or TikTok. I am not here to chastise. What a great thing it is to be constantly entertained. But to what end?
How can any of us feel real wonder when our senses are so dulled? How can we feel wonder when we rarely get just to be? An adult life is spent from call or email to the next, accumulating wealth for things that we often don’t need, all for the illusion of feeling strong or safe when none of us is really that safe. Death awaits us all. What is power other than an answer to death? (Death, you will not take me, I am too strong.) All of us are under the illusion that there will a tomorrow or even a next minute. We have to live with that illusion. The facts of our impermanent existence are too terrifying for most of us. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Today I strive to let go of my adultness. Like Wordsworth, its weight is too much with me. Wonder will suffice. Today I will stroll through East River Park and admire the colors of lilies. I will wander to the Angelika and watch Minari, my first movie in 15 months. Today I will let go of my thinking and try to be, to look around, to observe, to live as a flaneur. Is there anything more important? Here my inner child resides, in wonder, in joy, in observation. And the world of adulthood cannot take that away from me.