To See As A Child
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Seeing Anew: Exploring Perception

The Eyes of Innocence

Zen is to have the heart and soul of a little child. - Zen Master Takuan

I suspect that the child plucks its first flower with an insight ito its beauty and significance which the subsequent botanist never retains.
- Henry David Thoreau, Journal, February 5th, 1852 

It takes intelligence to be playful after one is no longer a child.
- Elizabeth Gawain

Genius is childhood recaptured. - Baudelaire


From Growing Young by Ashley Montagu
What precisely, are those traits of childhood behavior that are so valuable and that tend to disappear gradually as human beings grow older? We have only to watch children to see them clearly displayed: curiosity is one of the most important; imaginativeness; playfulness; open-mindedness; willingness to experiment; flexibility; humor; energy; receptiveness to new ideas; honesty; eagerness to learn; and perhaps the most pervasive and the most valuable of all, the need to love.
All normal children, unless they have been corrupted by their elders, show these qualities all day every day of their childhood years. They ask questions endlessly: "Why?" "What is it?" "What's it for?" "How does it work?" They watch, and they listen. They want to know everything about everything. They can keep themselves busy for hours with the simplest toys, endowing sticks and stones and featureless objects with personalities and histories, imagining elaborate stories about them, building sagas that continue day after day, month after month. They play games endlessly, sometimes constructing the rules, sometimes developing the game as they go along. They accept changes without defensiveness. When they try to accomplish something and fail, they are able to try to do it another way, and another, until they find a way that works. They laugh -- babies learn to smile and laugh before they can even babble -- and children laugh from sheer exuberance and happiness. Unless they suspect they may be punished for it, they tell the truth; they call the shots as they see them. And they soak up knowledge and information like sponges; they are learning all the time; every moment is filled with learning. How many adults retain these qualities into middle age? Few. They tend to stop asking those questions that will elicit information
Not many adults, when confronted with something unfamiliar, ask, as children always do: "What is it?" "What's it for?" "Why?" "How does it work?" Most adults draw back from the unfamiliar, perhaps because they are reluctant to reveal ignorance, perhaps
because they have become genuinely indifferent to the interesting experiences of life and consider that absorbing something new into the old patterns is simply too much trouble.
Nor can most adults content themselves with simple playthings enriched by their imagination. Witness the enormous growth of industries that cater to the "leisure-time" and "recreational" activities of adults, that manufacture the toys that grown-ups need in order to play: boats, cars, trailers, equipment for camping and hiking and running and tennis and golf, television sets, movies, sporting events, equipment for travel and even for shopping. The list seems endless. This is not to say that these activities are not enjoyable and healthful, but most of them are elaborate beyond the dreams of children. The difference, it has been said, between the men and the boys is the price of the toys. Very few adults in our affluent Western civilization are able to maintain themselves by themselves, with help only of their imagination and their own physical energy. They need to bolster their efforts with huge amounts of expensive equipment.
Most adults have lost, too, the ability to laugh from sheer happiness; perhaps they have lost happiness itself. Adulthood as we know it brings sobriety and seriousness along with its responsibilities. Most adults have also lost the ability to tell the simple truth; many appear to have lost the ability to discern a simple truth in the complex morass they live in.
Perhaps the saddest lost of all is the gradual erosion of the eagerness to learn. Most adults stop any conscious effort to learn early in their adulthood, and thereafter never actively pursue knowledge or understanding of the physical world we inhabit in any form. It as though they believed that they had learned all they
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needed to know, and understood it all, and had found the best possible attitudes toward it, by the age of eighteen or twenty-two or whenever they stopped their formal schooling. At this time they begin to grow a shell around this pitiful store of knowledge and wisdom; from then on they vigorously resist all attempt to pierce that shell with anything new. In a world which is changing so rapidly that even the most agile minded cannot keep up with all its ramifications, the effect of this shell building on a person is to develop a dislike -- even perhaps a hatred -- of the unfamiliar, simply because it was not present in time to be included within the shell. This hardening of the mind -- psychosclerosis -- is a long distance from a child's acceptance and flexibility and open-mindedness.

- Ashley Montagu -


"A child's world is fresh and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructable that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the source of our strength.
If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in."

Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

 
Poem in October
Dylan Thomas

It was my thirtieth year to heaven
Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbor wood
And the mussel pooled and the heron
Priested shore
The morning beckon
With water praying and the call of seagull and rook
And the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall
Myself to set foot
That second
In the still sleeping town and set forth.

My birthday began with the water-
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
Above the farms and the white horses
And I rose
In rainy autumn
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days.
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road
Over the border
And the gates
Of the town closed as the town awoke.

A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
Blackbirds and the sun of October
Summery
On the hills shoulder
Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly
Come in the morning where I wandered and listened
To the wind wringing
Wind blow cold
In the wood faraway under me.

Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
And over the sea wet church the size of a snail
With it horns through mist and the castle
Brown as owls
But all the gardens

Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales
Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.
There could I marvel
My brithday
Away but the weather turned around.

It turned away from the blithe country
And down the other air and the blue altered sky
Streamed again a wonder of summer
with apples
Pears and red currents
And I saw in the turning so clearly a child's
Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
Through the parables
of sunlight
And the legends of the green chapels

And the twice told fields of infancy
That his tears burned my cheek and heart moved in mine.
These were the woods the river and sea
Where a boy
In the listening
Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
And the mystery
Sang alive
Still in the water and singing birds.

And there could I marvel my birthday
Away but the wether turned around. And the true
Joy of the long dead child sang burning
In the sun.

It was my thirtieth
Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon
Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.
O may my heart's truth
Still be sung
On this high hill in a year's turning.
- Dylan Thomas -

 Let nature teach them the lessons of good and proper living, combined with an abundance of well-balanced nourishment. Those children will grow to be the best men and women. Put the best in them by contact with the best outside. they will absorb it as a plant absorbs the sunshine and the dew.
-Luther Burbank

The senses of children are unprofaned. Their whole body is one sense; they take a physical pleasure in riding on a rail, they love to teeter. So does the unviolated, the unsophisticated mind derive an inexpressible pleasure from the simplest exercise of thoughts.
Journal, July 7, 1851

A child loves to strike on a tin pan or other ringing vessel with a stick, because the child's ears being fresh, sound, attentive, and percipient, a child detects the finest music in the sound, at
which all nature assists. So clear and unprejudiced ears hear the sweetest and most soul-stirring melody in tinkling cowbells and the like as in dogs baying at the moon, not to be referred to association, but intrinsic in the sound itself; those cheap and simple sounds which adults despise because their ears are dull and debauched. Ah, that I were so much a child that I could unfailingly draw music from a quart pot! The child's small ears tingle with the melody. To a child there is music in sound alone.

July 16, 1851
...I think that no experience which I have today comes up to, or is comparable with, the experiences of my boyhood. And not only this is true, but as far back as I can remember I have unconsciously referred to the experience of a previous state of existence. "For life is a forgetting," etc. Formerly, methought, Nature developed as I developed, and grew up with me. My life was ecstasy. In youth, before I lost any of my senses, I can remember that I was alive, and inhabited my body with inexpressive satisfaction; both its weariness and its refreshment were sweet to me. This earth was the most glorious musical instrument, and I was audience to its strains. To have such sweet impressions made on us, such ecstasies begotten of the breezes! I can remember how I was astonished. I said to myself - I said to others -"There comes into my mind such an indescribable, infinite, all-absorbing, divine, heavenly pleasure, a sense of elevation and expansion, and [I] have had nought to do with it. I perceive that I am dealt with by superior powers. This is a pleasure, a joy, an existence which I have not procured myself. I speak as a witness on the stand, and tell what I have perceived." The morning and the evening were sweet to me, and I led a life aloof from society of men.

I wondered if a mortal had ever known what I knew. I looked in books for some recognition of a kindred experience,but, strange to say, I found none. Indeed, I was slow to discover that other men had had this experience, for it had been possible to read books and associate with men on other grounds. The maker of me was improving me. When I detected this interference I was profoundly moved. For year I marched as to a music in comparison with which the military music of the streets is noise and discord. I was daily intoxicated, and yet no man could call me intemperate. With all your science can you tell me how it is, and whence it is, that light comes into the soul?
Henry David Thoreau
The Little Prince (to the fox)
Goodbye.

The Fox:
Goodbye. And this is my secret, a simple secret. It is only with the heart that one can truly see. What is most important is hidden from the eye.

The LItte Prince:
Hidden from the eye?

The Fox: It is the time that you wasted on your rose that is important.

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