Thursday, February 18, 2010

When We Grow Up to Be Little

One day, when my granddaughter Jaime was about 4 years old, she showed me something she was playing with. To please her I said, without too much thought, "Gee, I wish I could have one of those." To which she replied, again without too much thought I imagine, "You can, grandpa, when you grow up to be little."

Ah, Peter Pan and Linus and Bert and Ernie and Alice in Wonderland and Snow White much you tell us about one of our most precious gifts in being human beings, the gift of imagination. The astonishing thing about literary figures, such as Alice and Peter Pan, is not that they never grow old, it is that we don't want them to. And why don't we? Because they represent something magical which is the vital balance to our real world of stress, anger, disappointment, war, and unspeakable cruelty.

In my own journey how often I discover that my folly is redeemed by the wisdom of Charlie Brown and that the unendurable was made endurable by the philosophy of Cinderella. To be in touch with the unseen world of music, art, faith, great literature, the saints of the Church, of the heroes of our national life, of the inner world of "The Railway Children" or "In America," is to touch the flowing fountain of renewal. For myself, Paul Robeson singing, "There is a Balm in Gilead," on an old LP is a source of unending magic. We are no less empowered by what we can't see than by what we can see. As Alice reminds us, "Why, I do five impossible things before breakfast."

What we see and hear with our eyes and ears is no more curative than what we hear with our spirits. That kind of cure is a necessary part of our growing up to be little in order to see the world that is beyond the world. I hope you’ll share with me ways in which you have “grown up to be little.”

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