NON-FICTION, 1550 words.
Copyright 2013 Ara Hagopian. This story is one of twenty-five published in WHAT HAPPENED TO VICKY LEE? A COLLECTION OF STORIES, available for purchase here: http://vickyleethebook.com/
The child starts us over on the day she’s born. She is nature saying: “Here’s another page to the human volume.” As such, from her first moments of awareness, one more child gets the chance to launch a lifetime series of perspectives on the values she sees around her.
Light and dark. Wet and dry. Hard and soft. Dear child: You’ll be venturing to both ends of these extremes, and back again.
Hot and cold. Held and left alone. Kind and cruel. Dear child: What is your reaction to these values? What can you modify or who can you enlighten, to bridge one to the other?
The questions are asked because the child has a unique and natural inclination to analyze values, just about every day of her life. She is immersed in values, with little or no stake in their historical context. In addition, because she’s a child and not a measured adult, her impulses are not curtailed by self-restraint. And impulsiveness is essential for discovery.
In order for the aforementioned values to adjust—and they must be adjusted as we live—the world needs a fresh opinion, an obtuse interpretation, and a cause of action, every moment of every day. Dear grandpa: You saw the age of the airplane because, to put it bluntly, the old ideas weren’t good enough to get off the ground. For a person to stay aloft in a plane under its own power—one of our most impressive accomplishments—two young brothers decided they had to re-think just about everything that had come before them, regarding aeronautics.
Because old ideas, and their biases, kill progress.
And the child is the antidote to bias.
As such, the child refreshes the world—and unites it.
How does a child’s general lack of bias allow her free access to both sides of a given value?
A bias is a pre-disposed point of view on a subject. An example of bias is: Violence is bad. Gentleness is good. Period. A measured adult says: “Do you want to know why violence is bad? I can show you a broken window, a bruised face, a destroyed city. Do you get it?”
And the child, because she is free of historical weight or agenda, says, “What’s happening on the rocks off the coast of Maine during a storm? How did the moon get its craters? Those are manifestations of violence as well.”
As a result, the child concludes that violence and gentleness are the left and right values of a means of action, and nothing more. A rock can be violently thrown into a lake, or gently dropped into the water. There is no good or bad in those actions.
Violence and gentleness are free from intent. Someone can gently murder by snipping a tube in a hospital room; someone can violently save a life by pushing a person out of harm’s way.
The un-biased analysis elevates the child and allows her to make her way back and forth at will. She can create ideas and cause others to partner and act in ways not previously explored. Her thinking can inspire new action; this is how progress is made.
Throughout time, we’ve learned that the child is both active and impulsive. We need the child to throw wet, green branches on the proverbially roaring fire. Yes, we do! Dear measured adult: Look past the ruined fire and your instant irritation. See how high the smoke rises, and how far it can be seen! Now think: What if that thick, bellowing smoke could be used deliberately, selectively, under controlled conditions?
We need the foolish child!
We need the child to ask “why”. The measured adult says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And the child responds: “But your stone bench will never break.”
Dear measured adult, wouldn’t it be nice to have something new to sit on? Maybe we need chairs instead of that everlasting stone bench. Maybe we need a new bench that’s shorter or wider or softer or lighter. Or, Heaven forbid, maybe we don’t need a bench at all.
And that brings us back to the airplane again. Someone invented support wires for multiple wings and then years later someone introduced cantilevering to the wing-bracing system. And by the way, who said we needed multiple wings?
“Wait!” Insisted the measured adult. “We can’t just have the one wing.”
“Why not?” asked the child.
“Well, where will all the wires go?”
And the child replied, “Who says we need them?”
We need more adult children.
A child must learn what brings herself satisfaction. Satisfaction is what remains in the mind’s tray as pleasure is sifted out—that is, when it’s carefully and deliberately removed. Pleasure is the fool’s gold of satisfaction; big and shiny and in the way of what is real, and lasting.
Pleasure is tasting; satisfaction is sharing that taste. Extending the reach of that taste. Paying less for that taste. Employing people who produce, market, and deliver that taste.
Smart children place their most vivid experiences into mental boxes to be combined and expressed and overruled at a moment’s notice. One day forty years ago, a child was drinking orange juice out of a large glass. His father scolded him: “You drink too much at one time! The juice is expensive!”
So the child thought about that. He noted that when he tipped the glass to his mouth and drank the entire amount, he really only tasted the juice at the beginning and end of the experience—that is, when he started drinking and when he finished drinking. Much of the juice he swallowed in-between was virtually without taste.
The child thought: What if my drinking glass had two compartments, one filled with juice and the other with water? The juice would only be activated at the start and finish of the drink, with the water mechanically switching on during the gulps in the middle. I might save 50% or more of my juice consumption!
We need the thinking child.
The world is perceived in longer strokes, by means of the child. A three-year-old’s summer of 2013 spanned 1/12th of her life (three months divided by thirty-six). A measured adult’s fifty-year-old summer of 2013 spanned 1/200th of that person’s life. While it’s true that the proportion of aggregate summers is the same—25%—the perception of one given year is much different between the three-year-old and the measured adult.
So realized a thinking child one summer.
The child, with her limited exposure to the June-July-August season, is not jaded in her experiences. She has not been worn down by the world, nor has she discarded her dreams. In her relatively long summer of 2013, she is fascinated by a crawling bug or furry caterpillar, both of which the measured adult has disregarded many thousands of times. With the disregarding, he loses the joy of relation. Yet to the child, the bug was invented that afternoon.
As such, values are bridged. The child finds two flat, sturdy pieces of Styrofoam and cuts holes for her feet. She heads to her nearby pond and finds she can traverse the short span between rock and shore because of what she’d observed earlier: The bug can walk on water.
So why can’t she?
Why can’t she try?
She will try! (With adult supervision, of course).
A child doesn’t need to touch a stove to know it’s hot. She needs to touch a stove to be reminded to control her hands. Controlling one’s hands is the biggest challenge to the child, as she may be deficient in the knowledge of right and wrong—and yet she’s pulled by the natural curiosity to reach out.
Of necessity, most children grow into measured adults. If the child’s lucky, she will mature but not lose the bulk of the gifts she possesses.
The child can exist at any age. Her lack of bias allows her to sail through situations that hang up those with a deeper keel. She will link people with her new perspectives, in ways that move mankind forward. Measured adults are well-suited to carry the child’s fresh ideas into practical applications that are frankly beyond her capabilities. While the child is deficient in many ways of living, she contributes usefulness to those who possess her missing skills, but lack the impulse of youth.
ARTIST’S NOTE: The included black and white photograph was taken at a private party on June 2nd, 2013. The toddler was relaxing, sipping from her cup while her mother and I sat nearby.
The photograph captured a child in her own world. She’d had a day of play and was contemplating her ginger ale in the shade of some very old trees.
Her expression reminded me of a childhood friend from the early 1970’s. Compared to the girl pictured here, my friend had similar eyes and hairstyle.
The photograph transcends, and encompasses, both girls.
My friend and I were about the same age, seven or eight years old. I remember one afternoon in her family’s open-floor plan beach house, her mother was straightening my friend’s bathing suit. And then she couldn’t resist touching her child’s face and hair, gently offering loving words of how beautiful she was, and how precious she was. I just stood and watched two people who were like my second family. At that instant, I think mom was overwhelmed by her adorable daughter. I think many mothers and children have had this very personal experience.
A mother held her child and expressed love in the most basic way possible. She told her, quietly, and with many words.
The Child is one of twenty-five stories published in the new book, WHAT HAPPENED TO VICKY LEE? A COLLECTION OF STORIES by Ara Hagopian. It’s available here: http://vickyleethebook.com/