This week the reminder that a gentle antidote for weariness or lethargy is childlike joy. Enlarging childlike joy is purposely and graciously, soul enriching.
Confucian philosopher Mencius’ reminder, “Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart.”
Our childlike joy lens, as in being filled with wonder, innocence, curiosity, and delight in living. Invited to pay attention to ways that our lives are recalibrated, grounded in values that allow us to be present.
I enjoyed Fredrik Backman’s, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, an exquisite portrait of an elderly man’s struggle to hold onto his most precious memories, sitting on a bench in a square with his grandson Noah, in a world that gets smaller by the day.
“He always wants to know everything about school, but not like other adults, who only want to know if Noah is behaving. Grandpa wants to know if the school is behaving. It hardly ever is.
Our teacher made us write a story about what we want to be when we’re big, Noah tells him.
What did you write?
I wrote that I wanted to concentrate on being little first.
That’s a very good answer.
Isn’t it? I would rather be old than a grown-up. All grown-ups are angry, it’s just children and old people who laugh.
Did you write that?
What did your teacher say?
She said I hadn’t understood the task.
And what did you say?
I said, she hadn’t understood my answer.
I love you, Grandpa manages to say with closed eyes.”
For golf fans, this past weekend’s PNC Championship was a breath of fresh air. It used to be Father – Son, but now Parent (Grandparent) – child, with Fathers and Mothers, sons and daughters playing as a team. A treat to watch.
One of the highlights (beside watching Tiger and his son Charlie) came with this life-giving scene. Annika Sörenstam was walking pretty fast on the 18th hole, when her 12-year-old son, Will, made a request. “Slow down, Mommy. I want to enjoy this moment.”
Yes please. Childhood joy.
And for our east coast friends, we are watching the serious storms. Please stay safe, and watch out for those who may need help or care.
We don’t get real winter here. You know, when you cover everything but your eyes and nose, and then hope the cold doesn’t freeze your eyelids shut. Here, we prefer to stick to grey and rain, mostly. Probably because we’re really good at it.
But every once in a while, we get real snow (the kind where people forget how to drive), and it’s cold enough to ice-over the ponds.
One of my favorite happenings when I lived on Vashon Island, was Fisher Pond becoming a skating rink. Because it meant one thing: a winter party.
Fisher is a shallow lake in the middle of Vashon Island, maybe five feet deep, but covers five acres. Along the back of the pond is a stand of Aspen trees, in the winter without leaves, a one-acre backdrop of quicksilver bark.
And I’m remembering the last freeze when I lived there. The weather had been in the 20s for a few days, and the sun is out in all its glory. With ice on the pond, there’s only one place to be. So, on a Friday, Zach and I spent the afternoon skating. (There’s an islander who has been collecting skates over the years, and he brings a few dozen pair, to loan out for the day.) It brings to mind Zach’s very first time on skates, in 2008 on Fisher pond. He reported, “I think I’m a natural.”
There is always a hockey game in full swing. Some guys my age (who have dusted off their skates and are grinning ear to ear), and a few youngsters (who are either Canadian, or transplants from the Midwest, because hockey is not our blood here). We join in.
The slap of the stick on the puck echoes through the air and into the Aspen trees around the pond, and in my mind, I am standing on Palmer Lake in Southern Michigan (where I grew up), a young boy pretending he is Gordie Howe.
Here’s what I know for certain, watching everyone on the pond: Every one of us is a certified member of The Society of Childlike Grownups. It’s a pretty good club to join. And sometimes it takes days, like that one, to remind us to ask, “Why do we so easily forget?”
Yes. A gentle antidote for weariness or lethargy is childlike joy. And enlarging childlike joy is purposely and graciously, soul enriching.
My neighbor, Jack, told me this story about another time that Fisher pond iced over. “I was on my way to a meeting. At church, on liturgy. It was for lay readers and acolytes. Driving by Fisher pond, I saw all the cars parked by the side of the road, and another friend out on the ice with his hockey stick and puck, wearing his Detroit Red Wing jersey. That settled it for me. I turned my car around, went back home for my skates and my two sons, and we headed back to the pond. My sons and I spent the afternoon skating and playing.”
“As far as I was concerned,” Jack continued, “this was an emergency. The way I figure it, there are different kinds of emergencies. The need to ice skate with your sons is one of them. I don’t know if the people at the meeting missed me or not. I felt a little guilty at first. But I knew spending the day on the ice was the right thing to do. I guess I didn’t realize how much I needed it.”
In the opening scenes of Shine, we first meet the middle-aged David Helfgott (played by acclaimed Australian stage actor Geoffrey Rush), babbling to himself incessantly and wandering in the rain, in a state of transition. Behind him is the isolated existence as a child piano prodigy whose emotional turmoil led to a nervous breakdown, and a series of stays in various mental institutions. Ahead of him is his eventual reconnection with the world around him, guided by both love and his virtuoso talent that has been long abandoned. We witness the awakening of the artist. In the movie (and in real life), David eventually moves toward that which gives life.
For me, the tragedy is that (in the name of love) David’s father (Peter) squeezes the artist out of the prodigy. But in truth, it doesn’t always require a pathological “love” to hide or extinguish the light.
In the movie rendition, there is a scene that stops my heart. David and his father are walking home after a competition. David has placed second.
(In his father’s eyes, anything other than first is a failure.) The father is seething, and there is no hiding his disgust. David has lived his entire life absorbing his father’s pathology, doing his very best to make his Daddy happy. The father walks ahead, hurried, his spirit heavy. David follows. On the sidewalk, in chalk, there is a hopscotch pattern. The camera follows from behind, and we see young David unconsciously, intuitively, childlike, hopping and skipping and jumping—the joy and the light (and the artistry) of his childhood still wonderfully alive.
So, here’s the deal: The artist—the authentic voice, the authentic name, the authentic wardrobe—in David did not reside only in the talent or prodigy or genius, but in the spontaneity, vitality, innocence, passion and delight.
Yes. In childhood joy.
Made me smile real big…
Let us let the child spill.
And let us remember… A gentle antidote for weariness or lethargy is childlike joy. And enlarging childlike joy is purposely and graciously, soul enriching.
What can you do today, to celebrate the Society of Childlike Grownups?
This will be one special night that makes me smile… tonight, Happy Winter Solstice to all. Of course, this time of year, short days and darkness are not a big deal in our neck of the woods. Which means, when there is an invitation to hope, we pay attention. And are more than eager for the coming days, to celebrate the return of the light: to bring the new year, and the rebirth of life.
The lights were dimmed and the symphony resonates, the hall filled with sound, during the Handel and Haydn Society’s season finale. (One of the oldest and most revered performing arts organizations in the country.)
They are performing a rendition of Mozart’s Masonic Funeral. 2500 people fill the Boston Symphony hall. They are captivated and rapt.
I do know this, Mozart touches the heart. And after a powerful piece of music, at the closing, a pin drop silence fills the hall.
Until the quiet is interrupted, by a voice.
A child’s voice, and it just said one word, drawn out with jubilation, “Wow”.
Oh my. And it captured the heart of all the concert goers. You know, glad to be alive capture the heart…
Now, as Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story”…
The audience begins to laugh, and then begin to applaud in total agreement.
You see, “Wow” resonated—not just in the hall, but throughout the classical music community. It was just such a departure from typical audience protocol, which is why the president of the Handel and Haydn Society, David Snead, was absolutely thrilled. He said it was one of the most beautiful moments in the hall. “I was like, ‘That’s fantastic’. There’s a sense of wonder in that ‘wow.’ You could really hear on the tape, he was like, ‘This was amazing.'”
And I love this… one headline reads: Boston orchestra finds child who blurted ‘Wow!’ during performance. Group wanted to reward the youngster’s enthusiasm for classical music (Thank you WCRB and CBC News and with the help of audio of the moment captured by WCRB-FM.)
And, a performing arts group found the child who was audibly wowed. It turns out the child is nine-year-old Ronan Mattin, of New Hampshire. He attended the concert with his grandfather Stephen. Ronan’s grandmother saw a TV report that said the society was looking for the child.
Stephen Mattin said Ronan is on the autism spectrum and expresses himself differently from other people. He said his grandson is a huge music fan.
Handel & Haydn president David Snead said he was setting up a Skype meeting with Ronan and Harry Christophers, the society’s artistic director who was conducting the night of the performance. The society invited Ronan and his family back to the venue in October, when the 2019-20 season opened, for another Mozart performance conducted by Christophers.
We get so caught up with whatever…. and we miss moments of awe.
Yes… Moments of childlike joy.
We live in a world where efficiency is prioritized above wonder.
Where action is prioritized above awe.
Where effectiveness is prioritized above amazement.
So. Let us pause during this Christmas season. Making time for the beauty. And find moments of Wow.
Our sunset tonight at 4:20 PM on this Solstice night…
And may this longest night and shortest day bring rest to your mind and soul, I pray. And may you always be blessed with the light from within.
Prayer for our week…
Celtic blessing to keep your heart warm…
“The food is put away for the winter,
the crops are set aside to feed us,
the cattle are come down from their fields,
and the sheep are in from the pasture.
The land is cold, the sea is stormy, the sky is gray.
The nights are dark, but we have our family,
kin and clan around the hearth,
staying warm in the midst of darkness,
our spirit and love a flame,
a beacon burning brightly
in the night.”
Photo… “Dear Terry, A picture is worth a thousand words! I captured the woodpecker feasting through our Christmas Wreath! Being patient and alert paid off just like you encouraged,” Marguerite Gerontis… Thank you Marguerite… And I’m so grateful for your photos, please send them to email@example.com