"A Tiny Desert Bird"
- along a wilderness trail-
I was standing in the checkout line at the supermarket yesterday as a little toddler sat facing me in the cart ahead of me. As I looked up I saw that he was intently looking at me with his big brown wide-open eyes, never averting his gaze even for a fraction of a second. I had this odd sensation that I was simply being accepted. He was too young to evaluate or judge me, too young to fear or doubt me - he just looked at me embracing me with his eyes, and in that one brief moment I experienced a sense of transcendent belonging, it was a thin place for me, a holy moment.
As soon as the mother noticed that her child was "staring" at the stranger behind him, she offered an abrupt reprimand, " Hey you, look over here. It's not polite to stare." In a sense it was a moment of shattered innocence, the "wondering" child was being socialized, taught how to look at the world through categories, how to follow socially-accepted rules, how to make distinctions between himself and others. He was being taught how to shield and protect himself- probably all valuable lessons for growing up in life--but somehow, there was a great sadness in that shattering of innocence.
I've been thinking about the great creation poem found at the beginning of the Hebrew Scriptures in the Book of Genesis. The poem describes the origins of creation- a beautiful original paradise in which there was a perfect sense of unity - human beings (Adam and Eve) and all creation all belonging together in one harmonious flow of being.
And then Adam and Eve decided that they were more important than the rest of creation, in fact they wanted be in control of everything that existed. So they broke off from the original harmony, and by doing so they lost their sense of original innocence. Now for the first time they saw themselves as distinct, separate, even dominant individuals - a tale of the birth of the ego.
The Genesis story teaches a great wisdom - that human beings are innately created for relationship, human beings are not separated individuals. It is in our origins, in our DNA that we live in harmony with one another and with the world.
It seems to me that small children haven't yet lost sight of the original state of human beings. They haven't yet been socialized into seeing themselves as different from others, better than others, better than the world of nature, and since they haven't yet lost their original innocence they can see the world as it really is
Interestingly enough, Jesus often talks about little children in his teachings. He places a little child on his lap and tells his disciples that the Kingdom God belongs to these little ones. He teaches that unless we become like little children we can never enter the kingdom of God. In another place he says:
I praise you Lord of Heaven and earth,
because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned
and revealed them to little children.
The wise and the learned have it all neatly figured out, but little children haven't lost their innocence. They still see a wonder-filled world of mystery in which everything and everyone all belong together in a perfect harmony - they have eyes to see the Kingdom of God.
It seems to me that innocence is a prized virtue for anyone of us to reclaim on any spiritual journey.
As I walked along a wilderness trail, a tiny bird came across my path. We both stopped and stared at one anther, we embraced one another with our gaze - after all we belong to one another, and it wasn't at all impolite to stare.
Pablo Picasso once said:
It takes a long time to become innocent once again.
I agree! The older I get, the more I hope to become like a child.