Monday, December 9, 2013

Reclaiming Innocence

"Simple Beauty"
-in the high desert-

For some reason I often find inspiration in restaurants, coffee shops and malls. Yesterday, was no exception as we ate lunch in a nondescript Thai restaurant in a local strip mall. The food is great there, but it's a modest little place. 

A cherubic looking child, maybe 4 or 5 years old, came into the restaurant with his daddy (maybe his grandpa). As he walked in the door, the child let out a cry of delight, "Oh Papi, look," making a beeline toward a Christmas tree stuck in the corner. 

Now, to be honest, I hadn't  even noticed there was a Christmas tree in the place. Maybe because it didn't seem all that attractive to me- a small little fluffy white artificial thing with cheap lights that twinkled on and off - it looked kind of gaudy to me, but not for that little boy. For him that tree was a work of art and a thing of beauty.

His little face was so radiant as he stood before the tree gently touching its fluffy white branches - marveling at the twinkling little lights that kept going "on and off."  I found myself beaming at the child and delighting in his delight.

And in that instance, in that one little moment when an angel-faced child stood in wonder before that little tree, I had a deep-felt insight into what "innocence" is all about; and I realized that perhaps the "primary" goal of every spiritual journey is the "reclamation of innocence."

Adults think that innocence is a quality you need to outgrow, along with your childhood.  Adults lose their innocence when they grow up and see life as it really is with its dangers, sorrows, failures and disappointments. Innocence in an adult is viewed as naiveté. An "innocent" adult is a "Peter Pan" -  a child refusing to recognize the often-harsh demands of everyday existence. 

In his book, "My Bright Abyss," Christian Wiman offers great wisdom about the value of "innocence" in our human existence:

To be innocent is to retain that space in your heart that once heard a still, small voice saying not your name so much as your nature, and the wherewithal to say again and forever your wordless but lucid, your untriumphant but absolute, yes. 

You must protect this space so that it can protect you. You must carry it with you through whatever milieu in which you find yourself growing too comfortable…something in you must remain in you voiceless even as you voice your deepest faith. doubt, fear and dreams. 

This rings so true for me. 

In the Jewish "mystical" tradition, each human being is said to be born with a "Spark of God" in them. At some deep level, every human being is born with a connection to the "Source." In every soul-a spark of the burning flame of universal love and universal energy that we call "God." This "Spark of God" is our purest, most pristine and most authentic part of our human nature. 

As I see it, the "Spark of God"is that still, small voice whispering to us at the core of each one of us.  Innocence is the quality of being present to that pristine spark, and open to hearing that still small voice in us.

Children are more innocent because they haven't yet learned how to silence the voice or smother the spark. 

This is why I say that perhaps the goal of any spiritual journey is to find innocence again -  not only to be present, awake and alive in every moment, but to delight and embrace each moment with awe and wonder, letting the pristine spark of God burn brightly in us and the voiceless voice echo in us. 

In a modest nondescript strip mall restaurant, an innocent child marvels at a twinkling fluffy-white Christmas tree.  He teaches me of innocence. He makes me long for innocence. He points  me to reclaim innocence. 

I look at the tree again. It is indeed a work of art- a thing of beauty.

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  1. Nice piece. Reminds me of the beatitude "The pure in heart shall see God."

  2. Beautiful. If we only could see things through childs eyes. Why do we lose that?

  3. Michael, I think we lose it because we get hardened by pain and failure. But we can reclaim innocence if we choose to do so.