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The Child’s World of Wonder and Ours!

The world of children, compared to the world of adults, is like an inverted pyramid. It has a way, a style, and a perspective, which is very different, at times even opposed to the perspective of us ‘grown-ups’. Children look at things and events very differently and many times we grownups do not understand this perspective. I realized this as I interacted with my own two little daughters and with other children. I began to see more and more that children have to offer to us adults a lot; that they are worthy teachers who see, sense and appreciate many things that we adults usually fail to see.

One of the very first and probably the most striking quality of children that I noticed was that these amazing human entities possess an unmatched sense of wonder in all things of life. A child is a wonder struck being who sees, senses and appreciates mystery and becomes wonder struck in things big and small. This appreciation and fascination extends to the realm of the very insignificant, even to the seemingly useless, like bottle caps and pieces of toys rather than complete (and expensive!) toys.

 

For a child to become excited and mesmerized by things, it does not always take the moon or an elephant, but a pebble, a stone, a broken dried up twig, a bubble. We adults are fully aware of the volley of questions shot at us by this wonder struck philosophic entity, the human person with an actively alive mind and a growing passion for reality around him. “Mama what is this?” “Papa why is this like this?” So the chanting goes on and on. This is the child’s way to express his sense of enchantment and wonder, his nature to seek, to know and to relate. It is a quest for expansion and meaning. The child is rooted in the reality around him and explores it and extracts from it all that adds to him and expands his knowledge and experience.

This led me to think about us adults and about our sense of wonder in things of life. I remember that many times when I used to get attractive and expensive toys for my daughters, sooner or later, they would leave these and would begin to focus on something very insignificant and on something that was not even a toy! Sometimes this used to frustrate me. But then I slowly realized that the problem was not with them. It was with me. Infact it was not a problem at all. It was a ‘clash’ between their (children’s) sensitivity to and hunger for the reality around them that led to a sense of wonder and appreciation and created a capacity for imagination in them, and the dryness, lack of wonder and imagination and indifference of the adult that I was.

A child is nascent and fresh, straight from the creator’s anvil.
He is hungry and eager. He has that inner space that is a pre-requisite to any growth and expansion of a person’s being. The child is like a black hole absorbing, assimilating and integrating reality into his being. He is a captive to the force of wonder and imagination. This state of the child and the ‘grown-up ness’ of us adults do not match. They are incompatible. This is what was reflected in my frustration.

Contrary to this wonder-struck state of the child, we ‘grown-ups’ become so familiar with things around us that we completely loose freshness and newness in relating with them. Our inner space seems to become stuffed with the cares of the rat race that we find ourselves to be in. We become robots that perform human-like functions. We run and run this rat race with more and more seepage of our mannishness i.e. the dimensions that make us different and superior to machines and animals. Let me ask you that when was the last time that you went to your garden and took sometime to admire the plants and the flowers that you got planted?

When was it the last time that you looked at the fishes in your aquarium and fed them yourself rather than asking someone else to do feed them for you? What about the wonder of that miracle called language, something that we employ practically every moment? We have become too passive even in our entertainments; we would rather sit in an armchair and clap at the goal scored by someone else (and clap at the thrill that he experiences!) than go out into the football field ourselves and get a taste of that thrill and wonder first hand! We have indeed lost this art of experiencing wonder. It is as if our personalities have undergone a mechanization and loss of organicity. It is as if personality and personhood do not matter to us any more! We have become materialized and lifeless.

When we begin to loose this child-like sense of wonder and adventure in life,
we loose something much more critical along with it. We undergo what I will call a ‘design mutation’. By this I mean that we humans were originally made to possess certain child-like dimensions or child-like parameters or qualities, including a very basic sense of wonder. This was our design. But now there seems to have been immense erosion in this child-like sense of wonder and other child-like dimensions and we have undergone a ‘design mutation’ i.e. a mutation has taken place in our original design. This mutation, this distortion in us, in our psyche has led to a whole lot of psychological and relational problems. These in turn have only become multiplied and more glaring in our modern times.

I believe that child-likeness is a critical key to the adult’s mental health for in the child, there are principles, there are paradigms that take us (at least to some extent) to the state which humans were designed to possess in the very first place. The child’s carefree attitude to things in life, his inner space to enjoy and appreciate the reality around him, his humility and capacity to accommodate insults directed to him and finally his simple heartedness out of which come out sparks of truth and purity are some dimensions that we adults and ‘grownups’ have lost. As a consequence of this loss, we have become deficient in ourselves, in our make up and have become poor and empty. I believe that a return to some of these child-like dimensions is very much the need of the hour, especially in our sick modern age. Child-likeness is the paradigm that we ought to adopt. Let us adopt it.

Contributing Writer:  Deepak Ransom works with the International Language Institute, Allahabad d_ransom@rediffmail.com


 

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