What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up? - That Which We Already Know

Chapter Six - That Which We Already Know

Imagine, if you will, that child of tender years that you once were – perhaps four or five or six years old. You’re at a gathering of some sort, with many of your mother’s or your father’s adult friends in attendance, or maybe relatives that you’ve never met before; and as the awkward introductions proceed at least one of the grownups smiles at you and enquires: “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

What would your response have been? Would you have embarked upon delighted imaginings, or begun parroting precocious certainty? Would the question have even made sense to you, or would it have left you instead with a confounded blankness? And me? Well, count me amongst the confounded, for the most part.

Oh sure, I engaged in my share of role-playing fun. As boys did at the time, we played 'Cowboys and Indians' and other war games. From time to time I even dressed up in the Batman costume my mother sewed for me and commenced to pretending that I was as big and strong and smart as the “real” (adult) batman on T.V. When Halloween came around, though, more likely than not I chose to dress up as a hobo.

The author explores ways to manifest his True Self

I’d like to think that that choice of Halloween costume foreshadowed my later appreciation of one of the most highly evolved hobos of all time – the Buddha. To be sure, dressing up as a bum was a fairly popular thing for boys to do back in those days; and, yes, little was required beyond grease penciling a scruffy beard on your face, throwing on one of your father’s big old flannel shirts, and tying a bundle of rags wrapped in a kerchief onto the end of a found stick. That notwithstanding, there does seem to be something telling about my desire to be a hobo.

Do I reveal too much about my adult psyche in saying that – as I drive by one of those still wild places that exist down in the over-grown culverts along the highway or in the odd parcels of land too small or inaccessible to be of commercial value – I think of sitting there in solitude, the quiet observer that I have been for as long as I can remember. I know a little bit of what it is like to be a hobo, I think – to feel that there is little in this so-called civilized world to become attached to – to feel that living amidst the truth of those still wild places, as difficult and insecure as that might be, is better than dying slowly amongst the falseness of this fallen world that we’ve created. Was my knowing this already to the depths of my being what inspired me to dress up as a hobo on those Halloween nights so very long ago?

We so gradually develop the self-awareness of our adult years that we tend to forget those childhood days when we had very little of it at all. When we ask a child what they want to be when they grow up we tend to assume that they have a similarly precisely demarcated and robust sense of self as we do, with the ability to project those aspects of who we think we are into whatever prospective role we might be contemplating in order to determine whether it might be the “right fit”. Children do not yet have the ability to do this in any meaningful way. They are so innately expert at being precisely what they are, with neither effort nor forethought, that the idea of one day choosing what to be is totally foreign to their experience. The world of the child is not yet a collection of puzzle pieces amongst which they must “fit”. No, the developing capacity of self-awareness has not yet taken up the laser beam of the intellect in order to create the myriad separate pieces of the world.

What a child ‘is’ is the totality of everything that they know, their siblings and parents, their friends and neighbors, their home and yard and neighborhood. Like those water turtles that I spoke of back in Chapter One, they settle amongst the flotsam and jetsam of this modern world without judgment or separation. They simply are, and the world simply is, and the two of them are not yet two, although their human karma will one day make it so.

So, what do you want to be when you grow up? The question intrudes into the child's world like a voice calling from someplace far, far away as if to say: You live in oneness now, my child. You have not yet realized the fallenness of this world. You live without wanting to be anything other than precisely what you are, but that cannot last. You must one day learn to be separate from all that is. You must choose what you will be.

Yes, of course, that is the way of the world, and we would be remiss to let our children grow up without contemplating all that is within their power and purview to do and become. The difficulty is that, in doing so, we also tend to foster a sense of separation from all that is – the oneness that is their birthright – the truth that they’ve known all along.

Image References

Original Rustic Garden Gate on Riverside at Eynsford by Richard Croft via:

Copyright 2014 by Mark Frank


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