Friday, May 31, 2013

Childhood's End

It seems like I've been seventeen for an awfully long time - 47 years next month, to be precise. Body sporadically reminds me that, although feeling the benefit of being a herbivore and getting some exercise, it's no longer a teenager. However, I can't honestly say my thinking mind feels any older than it did when I graduated from high school. It’s still curious, prone to wonder, and as my colleagues will attest, annoyingly analytical.

It was years after my teens before I could freely admit to being an adult man. Over time, my depth perception has increased and I can't deny being a bit wiser, but terms like 'grown up' and 'mature' suggest a level of development I still don't feel.

This post languished as a draft for over a year as a title, opening line, picture and a few scattered thoughts. Because the previous post leaned towards ‘nothing to attain’ (hopefully not so far as to suggest that aimless marketplace wandering should be substituted for formal practice), now seemed a good time to bring this one out of mothballs.

Childhood's End is the title of a science fiction novel I read in my teens by the late Sir Arthur C. Clarke about a tipping point in human evolution. It made a lasting impression on me and contributed, I’m sure, to my shamelessly optimistic belief that, despite the horrors of human depravity, war, and the animal holocaust, we are growing up.

We start out preoccupied with ourselves. Possessive, even obsessive, about our toys. Caught up in playground rivalries - "I'm better than you are!" With any luck, as we grow older, we leave some of this behind. Life becomes less about our own personal pleasure, our personal safety, and our status in the eyes of others. What gives us more happiness is nurturing growth and healing hurt, as if our need for the world to be our parent transforms into our becoming a parent to the world.

In the novel, a whole generation of children begins to exhibit breakthroughs in awareness and acquire powers that their fearful parents don’t understand. To shepherd the children through this transformation, a race of benevolent aliens keeps a watchful eye, and for the most part, doesn't interfere with human affairs. One exception is their intolerance of cruelty to animals. At a bullfight, when a Picador stabs the bull with his lance, the entire crowd screams in pain. They quickly got the message.

I think the reason I avoided finishing this post for so long is that it cuts uncomfortably close to the bone. Writing about childish behaviour in others draws on my considerable judgmental skills. Just when I've figured out the specifics of someone else's arrested development, however, I catch a glimpse of myself in that pesky mirror and it all goes out the window.

I feel those pokes of the Picador’s lance as twinges of guilt each time my critical thoughts loop back and point out my own fears and defence mechanisms. The lessons hit the mark, and I’m very grateful for them …  but it doesn't mean I have to like them.

Kindly reminders to stop and, rather than follow my inclination to run away and take refuge in distraction, take refuge in the Three Jewels.

Beckoning to loosen my fierce grip on the 'right' way.

To let each moment be.

Childhood's beginning.

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