One mild evening recently, I stood in my backyard holding my week-old child, and watched his tiny face relax to the touch of the breeze. For both of us, the moment was strangely powerful. It might as well have been the first time I’d felt such a breeze. I was experiencing the world anew, because my infant was. He’d helped me bridge the distance between my blasé adult self and a much younger, less complicated version of me.
We all have an inner child whose freshness and awe can continue to renew and enliven us even as our bodies age, helping us to plant our feet firmly in the mysterious abundance of each single day. And if we ignore or suppress this inner child, we may miss out on something essential.
In his unaffected rural style, the Romantic poet William Wordsworth wrote on this subject more than two-hundred years ago:
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
As I observe my infant son in his first weeks of existence, each hour brings potent reminders of Wordsworth’s poetic truth. The Child is father of the Man.
How many of us can truly say that the sight of a rainbow awakens for us, like Wordsworth, the elation it awoke in us as children? Though the vision itself remains the same, our eyes have dulled somehow.
But remember the magical glow of primary colors back in your youth? The joy of warm beach sand or prickly lawn grass under your toes? The breathtaking effect of fresh snow? Must these sensory marvels become so lost upon us that they have only the hollow sound of cliché when called to mind?
Why should our senses dim over time? Why should we lose our reflexes of wonder?
Well, it happens. Aging and amassing experience by the year, we grown-ups tend to believe ourselves well-practiced in living. We pretty much know what’s coming. This morning is a morning like most others. This breeze is a breeze, no big deal. As adults, nonchalance is demanded of us. We’re expected to know what to expect.
But while it’s almost second-nature for grown-ups to regard inexperience as a detriment, to think of being a beginner as a condition to overcome quickly, my tiny newborn reminds me, his awe-inspired father, that every day is something unprecedented — and therefore, whether I admit it or not, I’m always a beginner.
The child is father of the man. My actual son and my inner child, both, bring me fully into the richly palpable world. Suddenly I find myself absorbed more deeply in the unprecedented present, and if I have the innocence to be a little awe-struck, it’s a good thing. I don’t mind being a beginner at all.