Innocence is what we allowDavid Whyte, ‘One Day” from River Flow: New & Selected Poems
to be gifted back to us
once we’ve given ourselves away.
There is one world only,
the one to which we gave ourselves
utterly, and to which one day
we are blessed to return.
Do you have small children in your life? Like their energy, the insights that come from watching them experience life are boundless. A recent Facetime with our grandson, Cooper, was a lesson in boundlessness. Boundless energy. Boundless curiosity. Boundless imagination. Boundless innocence. Boundless joy.
Children possess an energy that can overwhelm our senses. Relative to the steady plodding that most of us engage daily, a child’s energy looks explosively chaotic. We think, “If I only had one iota of that energy, I could do anything!” We long for those days when we felt like we could run for hours, pursuing all that interested us.
Watching Cooper race around his house reminded me of a time when everything was urgent simply because there was so much life to live. There was no need to justify or rationalize directing energy toward a pursuit. To engage those energies was to live. The young engine may run a bit hotter, however, it is the racing mind that engages it so boundlessly.
Do you remember a time when everything held a mysterious fascination? How about a time when anything held a mysterious fascination? Children have a special version of curiosity; it is a superpower. As we watched Cooper run around his room, all things familiar became new and magical again.
For him, each toy promised adventure. The little slide, now almost too small, was delightfully entertaining – born again in his burst of excitement. Stuffed animals, a tee pee, books, and even clothing were reactivated by his curiosity; it made everything new again.
What triggered his renewed interest? A big part of it was his ability to share his adventure. Showing us everything made it fresh and interesting. Sharing ignited his curiosity. Being able to see everything as new again is a tremendous gift and so very easy to forget.
What do you see when you walk into a child’s room? We see things in terms of order and chaos. Function and design. The child sees it as a world of possibility and adventure. Everything in that room represents something else, a gateway to some corner of his or her imagination.
The dresser is meant to be climbed. The books are supposed to be stacked, scattered, stacked. The stuffed animals interact with each other and make sounds like the ones we saw in Lion King. The cars roll along the carpeted highway crashing into each other and driving away again unharmed.
For most of us, we can hardly remember such games and are even less able to dial-in to the imaginative playfulness on display. As Cooper moved between each of the things in his room, there was no correct way to play or need for explanation. The room became whatever his mind could conjure up and he embraced it without inhibition or self consciousness.
As I watched through the small screen of my phone, he said, “Come on, Poppy!” as he motioned for me to follow him into the other room. Then, he ran over, grabbed the phone from his mom, and took me into his room. Before I knew it, I was watching the ceiling as he set the phone beside him and flipped through one of his favorite books, reading it to me in the special words that only a two year old understands.
How do you describe the preciousness of such a moment? Pure. Honest. Innocent. He believed unabashedly in the magic of the iPhone as it transported me into his room with him. He wasn’t aware of or concerned with silliness or realities. He was simply living in the moment and following his heart. He just wanted to read with me.
Author/poet, David Whyte, describes innocence in adulthood as “what we allow to be gifted back to us once we have given ourselves away.” Whyte challenges us to hold on to a “robust innocence.” Watching children is a reminder of the power of innocence and the best way I can imagine to allow it to be gifted back to us.
And there it is: joy. The joy of jumping on a bed. The joy of running room to room while engaging the powerfully youthful faculties of innocence, curiosity, and imagination. The joy of talking to your Nanny and Poppy through a video phone simply because it is the most exciting thing to happen yet today. A joy that soon gives way to the next joyfully innocent moment.
To engage those youthful faculties is to align yourself with joy. For Cooper and all small children, the boundlessness of childhood is to love completely. People. Moments. Things. Life. The joy of these moments is born in innocently embracing them as they occur without inhibition or hesitation.
As adults, we distance ourselves from joy with all of the distractions. Sure, we find moments but watching Cooper reminded me that boundless joy as he feels it is something magical and elusive. My joy in sharing the moment with him reminded me that our capacity for it is far greater than we realize.
Looking at Cooper and considering the boundlessness of children, I think I’d like some of whatever they’re drinking. How might we pour a bit of energy, a dash of curiosity, a pinch of imagination, and a smidge of innocence into our own cup? Our patterns, expectations, limitations, and perceptions only serve one thing: more of the same. If you’ve got enough joy in your life, you are way ahead of the curve – I commend you.
For me, I like the notion of boundless joy. I think I might spend a bit more time with that little boy who seems to have it figured out.