No one talks much about the spiritual life of kids. Not the “Jesus loves you” formula, but the deeper, simpler, clearer kind. The kind that new mothers can see. The kind that wise women know, who wear suffering like jewels and grow more beautiful with each loss. There are the men who know and see, growing freer, not harder, in the knowledge. Women and men who nurture, mentor and love deeply know early that the only certainty, the only absolute truth is death and that life is the most precious of gifts to be savored and developed in all its intricacies of freedom.
Perhaps that is why we primates thrill at the innocence of beginning life, the new possibility, experiencing for even a brief moment the pure joy of an unmarked path, consciousness before language, before paradigm, before the poisons of religion, the addictions of pleasure and the murders of survival.
We are born into a ruined paradise, struggling to live the truth of love among the endless violence of true believers of all stripes. If our families are close, we can experience that rich reflex of love with gratitude and its sensuous dance—-generosity. Among the wreckage of loss and abandonment many of us build new families of choice. We can live love in all its kaleidoscope of possibilities and realize its maturity in compassion.
The heart of all religions is the praxis of unselfish love , the freedom from and of death and acceptance of the extraordinary responsibility we have for the brief gift of consciousness. Live and honor life. What lives on beyond us are the waves of action stirred by the choices we’ve made. When we refrain from squashing that spider, for an instant we know the truth of killing. Other times we don’t refrain, but remember that one time when we chose life for another. A tiny step like that sends us toward true freedom. Can it be any wonder that a nation which is so utterly in denial about the truth, about death, can consider fantasy slaughter entertaining and its reality in war, famine and genocide the collateral accidents of globalization?
When Kurt Vonnegut was once asked by Bill Moyers what he thought was the solution to the suffering of the world, the old man fumbled about in his rumpled jacket pocket and pulled out an old, creased paper and from it read the Beatitudes:
Gospel of St. Matthew (5:3-10)
- Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom Heaven.
- Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
- Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
- Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
- Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
- Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see.
- Blessed are the peacemakers
- Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
It’s that simple. We are in a cycle of end times and should experience for our own peace the spirituality of children, the wise, artists, musicians, dancers, creators of gardens, healers, those who repair and maintain, nurturers, mentors, teachers, lovers and story tellers so we can collectively create the ark that will carry forward the best of our spirits into the infinite, sparking new life. We can eat of the tree of knowledge and become innocent. God is a mirage. We are free.
Baby M. was, well, an innocent baby when the incident occurred. Most adults don’t remember babyhood incidents, mostly because the baby brain is not geared to deductive memory. The language isn’t there. For most babies that is. Many babies, however, are species differentiated, magic in the genes so to speak. In such little creatures lies the full born language of impression. For those who become artists and learn the beauty of words like pictures in form and color, memory of the earliest days rises to the surface on occasion like colorful bubbles of intense ‘feeling’ from the depths.
The other day, the old M. was waiting patiently in the car with Bodhi Dog while T. went to scour treasures among the dime and nickel treasures of what New Englanders call ‘tag sales.’ While T. was negotiating and discovering, the old M. became fixated on the red-burgundy trim of a nearby farmhouse. A flood of sensation came out of the blue; the smell and feel of crayon; the deep wonder of burgundy; and something earlier, powerful and out of reach of language. It must have been a baby memory of considerable passion. In baby awareness lies the full awe of creation in all its wonders.
A little later, Baby M. remembers lying on the floor of a stairwell that curved upward in a tower and out of sight, illuminated by slit windows of stained glass in dazzling colors and dancing spots. Near, a pale green garden room filled with flowers and jungle plants loomed up in a forest incomprehensible. That same morning his dad snapped a picture of him playing on a wildflower, dandelion filled lawn with dog, Tuesy, his tow head glinting in the sun in a baggy diaper with animated little white shoes, a victim of energy left behind while his mind was already there. Moments later, M’s blond Cocker, Tuesy, was run over by a guest speeding up the long driveway from the country lane. Right before his eyes. Yet he only remembers the tower, the colored lights, and the jungle. Death left beauty.
Death in its variety can bring terror to a new human, instilling before it is even formulated and feared, a sense of the end of things. One late Summer evening sitting on his aunt’s front porch near a river of mists and the mammoth rise of an enormous orange moon, M. sat on blue enameled steps overwhelmed by the sight when he saw out of the corner of his eye a giant cicada shell, a monster angel carapace, stuck to the sides of the porch pillar. Then, the cicadas began their wild roar and he was so stunned that he remained speechless and paralyzed with terror. But he forced himself to rise and move toward the carapace and touch it. That was his first conscious realization of freedom.
At five years old came the angel of death. After that, all fear and terror became the path to freedom. Decades later when speaking of the incident with his Dad, who never spoke of the war, his prison camp internment, or the slaughter he witnessed on forced march, simply said, “you are a warrior son.”
Then came the summer when childhood ended and Tuesy’s ghost brought eternal life with the death of God. M. was lying on the lawn staring up at the night sky filled with stars when suddenly without a thought knew that the cool grass beneath him was alive, sentient, and like the cicadas, a wonder happened. After that, the true life of trees and plants radiated at night. Divine.
There can not be too much past in the life of conscious humans. Tell stories. Tell everyone “I was, therefore I am.”