I caught this fleeting moment of wonder at Latika Vihar the other day. It wasn’t until I returned home and saw it on my screen that I thought about its depth and promise: a little girl, stepping out on her own, into a sepia-colored expanse of space where anything – literally – might happen.
And then I stepped back to fill the frame further and caught this:
(Where do we get the idea that childhood is simple? What makes us think that children don’t wonder about the same big questions of the past, the present and the future which preoccupy us?)
I vividly remember being obsessed with the idea of eternity when I was in Class 5. My Grandmother, whom I adored, had just died and to comfort me, my parents explained that I would meet her again in Heaven, that we would live there forever and – just to totally confuse me – that God had no beginning and no end.
The idea of no beginning and no end petrified me. I thought about it constantly. I tried to sneak up on it and catch the concept unawares, sure that there must be a way of understanding it which made sense based on all the other things I knew. But the harder I tried, the bigger and more unmanageable it became. I would lie awake at night wondering about God (no beginning was worse than no end) and where Grandma actually was and how this whole thing could possibly add up.
I still wonder. Unlike my younger self, I am now content to let the questions go while I get on with life. Or at least I am satisfied with the improbable technicolor answers the grownup world provides.
But I still love that little girl who was fully open to the wonder and the mystery of the world, who was not afraid of the fear of not knowing and for whom Emily Dickinson wrote these amazing lines:
Wonder—is not precisely Knowing
And not precisely Knowing not—
A beautiful but bleak condition
He has not lived who has not felt—
Children remind us continually of the depths of the universe and the complexity, beauty and long-forgotten nature of our own souls. We sell ourselves short sometimes. Children call us home.