With this post I bring to a close the first chapter of That Which We Already Know. I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts in sequence. If you are just now discovering them, you might want to first check out Introduction, A Child In Eden, and The Fall.
Part I, Chapter 1 – A Child in Eden (second continuation)
The Nursery was our beloved realm, regardless of what blemishes and imperfections my discriminating adult mind might impose upon its memory. Likewise, that city waterway, complete with the trash washed there from the humans living just beyond, is the beloved realm of turtles and fish and waterfowl – regardless of what might make me cringe. For just as animal discernment is oriented towards that which promotes life, so a child’s discernment is oriented towards that which induces wonder. The discriminations and assessments and judgments of the fully developed adult mind will come later, after having eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Those turtles sunning themselves atop the urban flotsam of that city park were no less content than if they’d been sitting on their favorite old-growth cypress log in the middle of a sleepy backwater. Nature is like that. In nature life does not proceed in full or half measure depending upon circumstance; it always proceeds in full measure. The turtle actualizes its nature with the entirety of its being without regard for circumstance. The windblown seed has no knowledge of whether it will put down roots, or where, but once it does it proceeds to sprout and reach toward the sun with every fiber of its being. The lowly dandelion and the mighty oak, whether growing in a garbage-strewn alleyway or in a beautiful country meadow, greet each and every moment with the entirety of their being. Children are like that, too, living fully and completely without regard for circumstance.
Do you recall such days of trust and acceptance? Do you recall engaging life without any sense of separation – with mind and body seamlessly integrated one with the other, and with the environment as well? Do you recall not being constrained by worry or judgment, conceptualization or doubt? Such is the absolute freedom of the children and the wisest among us, and all that resides in the natural world – the absolute freedom to be precisely what we are and nothing that we are not, the absolute freedom to engage life completely, fearlessly, and spontaneously.
As children, lacking the self-awareness of our later years, we don’t so much know this freedom as do we naturally embody it. Ironically, it is our developing self-awareness that brings our innate childhood freedom into view only as it begins to disappear - just as sunlight creates a rainbow in the mist prior to boiling it away. Such was the newfound awareness of my waning freedom as I embarked upon that somber walk past the birch grove and across the dirt road heading down from the Gerhardt mansion. Such was my newfound awareness of some vague need to spend the afternoon sitting in the ravine in the middle of the meadow rolling down from the baseball diamond. Yes, the sound of the frogs emanating from the many ponds that I knew so well still sang within my heart. Yes, I still felt deeply my connection to that place and all that lived and grew upon it. A specter, though, was lurking on the horizon. A war was being fought somewhere out there in the grownup world; and I would one day be a grownup, too.
The mere passage of the years of my then-short life had put the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil upon my tongue; and without my even realizing what was happening I’d begun to chew and swallow. Call it the natural development of human intellect and self-awareness or call it original sin. Either way, my fall from grace was underway and gathering speed. What is a first grader to do, after all, but contemplate the second, and then the third one after that? And because I could I counted them off until the twelfth and final one. But what came after that, beyond where the school years reached? What came after that, in a future that I could scarcely comprehend?
Indeed, a specter lurked out there on the horizon in my childhood mind, growing darker with each glimpse, cleaving mind from body and leaving me a stranger where I was. Image upon image, the future that I could scarcely comprehend grew darker – grainy television footage showing young soldiers landing in a jungle clearing, a playground conversation in which a classmate tells of how his older brother’s number was just drawn, a photograph in a magazine of a gun held to the temple of a little man…
But, oh, those days of grace were yet so close to me! And closer still within the embrace of my beloved realm. In the Nursery there was no future, bright or dark. In the Nursery the seamless nature of body and mind returned. There, I was freedom once again. There, I was oneness once again. Like in the summer before that autumn, with the full functioning of childhood blossoming in all its glory, we’d explore from breakfast onward, returning only when our hunger called, or to stoop for gulps of water from a shaded backyard spigot. I can still taste that metallic water, and smell my mother’s mint that flourished there in the moist earth beneath the dripping faucet. I can still feel the warm sun on my face and the cool water dripping down my neck and wetting the front of my t-shirt. I can still feel what it was like to ride my bike along the winding dirt roads and trails – feeling every dip and rise and root.
There was only that which was; and in the acceptance of that which was there was sufficiency, contentment, and peace. Nothing required improvement. Nothing needed to change. There was neither enlightenment nor gain nor journey nor spirituality. There was only being; and being has no need for words or concepts. Being actualizes itself regardless of how we might describe it or try to explain it. As adults we read these words and call them knowledge. A child has no need for them at all! They already embody every bit of knowledge that they need. And so it is with that which we already know.
End Chapter 1
Child and frog courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via:
Original Rustic Garden Gate on Riverside at Eynsford by Richard Croft via:
Copyright 2014 by Mark Frank