Little children imagine the world differently from most grown-ups. More truly, I think. They don't distinguish between an animate and inanimate world. Everything around them is alive.
When Charlie was six, we bought a newer car. When she was at school, we sold the green station wagon--HER car. The one she knew from her beginning.
The one that took her places while she had important phone meetings.
Cars, animals, stuffed animals, people, trees--all live together in the living world that children experience. So when Charlie heard on the way home from kindergarten that her beloved green car had been sold, she burst into tears: "I DIDN'T GET TO SAY GOODBYE!"
But she did get to. The new owners had not yet picked up the car. Still moist with tears, Charlie erupted with joy to see her beloved green car in front of the house. When the time came for her car to leave with its new people, Charlie tenderly walked up and patted the hood. "Goodbye," she said. Quite similar to the way in which she had said "Goodbye Nana." at my mother's casket the summer before.
My tears are too often sentimental. But children don't feel sorry enough for themselves yet to be sentimental. Their tears are direct, immediate and relational. As is their joy and wonder. This changes as we get older. Therefore the world, as we see it, changes. It can become a world of "things" for which we have little feeling. People can become things--useful or not--to us too.
Sometimes, when I look at a discarded Teddy Bear, it overwhelms me. The hallelujah and the brokenness of our being-here. That which children are vulnerable to feeling unguardedly. That which mystics of any religion (or non-religion) see. About which poets write.
Jesus is said to have said, in response to his young men arguing over who was greatest among them, "Unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. For to such it belongs." Jesus' "kingdom" was a satirical inversion of the Roman kingdom. Fearless love over fearful power.
"And a little child shall lead them," declares Isaiah's vision of a peaceful kingdom. It's about unquestioned belonging, where everyone and everything is included. Exquisitely painful. I guess we are too afraid for that. Or are we?
(Note: I intended this blog to be a eulogy of Leonard Cohen. Thus the title. But I think his spirit overtook my hands. Maybe something more directly about him later...)