How children help us rediscover the good life.
Sometimes I like to think that I see the world the “correctly,” as though I have some kind of wisdom that gives me the tools to live the fulfilled life. But as I sat on my couch this afternoon, watching my three-month-old son interact with my husband, I began to realize just how far I have strayed from living that “fulfilled” life.
The world from the eyes of a little baby is, in so many ways, a more accurate perspective than the world seen from the eyes of us adults.
Babies know very little about their world – almost nothing, in fact. But somehow, they interact with and react to their world through responses we grown adults have learned to forget.
Babies don’t see color for the first four months of their lives. They don’t understand words, and can only see up to a distance of a mere 15 inches for months of their existence. But they eagerly welcome the comfort and embrace of the person who holds them near. They don’t know what being a human is, and yet they delight in the fuzzy outline and voice of a human.
Babies see us smile at them, and they learn to smile back. They hear us talk and try to talk back – exploring the noises they can make with their vocal cords and imitating our facial expressions.
They study things for hours on end – trying to make sense of the puzzling world. They work for what they don’t understand, they cry for help when they need comfort, they welcome the warm milk of their mother like it’s a stream of gold – heartily adopting the world of food as we ought to adopt it – with enthusiasm, delight, eagerness and reverence. Babies snuggle shamelessly against what they love, whether it’s a blanket, stuffed bunny, or their parent’s hug. Babies do not apologize for their curiosity – they are eager to learn and often get frustrated when they can’t complete a feat fast enough to keep up with their learning minds — like rolling over or crawling. And babies unashamedly allow the sweet and precious sleep, which we all too often deny ourselves on account of “being” or “doing,” to drape itself over them like the warm breeze of a lazy summer’s eve.
So I had to ask myself:
Why have we lost these abilities? Why don’t we delight this way in even the shadows of human life? Why don’t we see semblances of humans – outlines – and welcome them into our hearts with the innocent delight babies so effortlessly possess? Why don’t we study our own world, constantly asking questions, constantly probing the corners of our universe to seek the beauty and constancy that babies seem to find? Why don’t we let ourselves love what we don’t quite understand, if we instinctively know it’s good? Why are we ashamed to seek a shoulder to cry on, or a hug from a loved one? Why do we give up on things we want to do, when babies strive endlessly towards the goals that further their little purposes? Why do we abuse food, when instead we could be appreciating the creative and complicated possibilities it holds — treating it as a rarest nectar? And, of course, why are we ashamed to feel tired and worn out – punishing ourselves for that extra-long nap because x, y, or z has been on an ancient, tattered, and neglected to-do list for so long?
As I sat there quietly and thought about these things, I realized that somehow, all of the good ways of living are embodied in the tiniest, frailest, and most unsuspecting little beings there are. These miniature humans dig deep into the colorful, spectacular, mysterious, rich soil of this world, and there they discover the treasure that we have carelessly buried. Thank goodness the world gives us children to unearth that treasure; to remind us just what kind of goodness we are allowing ourselves to miss.