With whirls of negative, doomsday messages swirling in our radio, media and classrooms, it's no wonder many of us have lost the spark in our eyes. Depression and anxiety are on the rise and our heads and hearts droop with deadlines, cynicism and numbing interpretations of life and our collective future.
Despite the headlines, children exude a fervor for life that is contagious. Bursting with giggles, screams, jumps, songs and silly interpretations, they seem to be living with simple joy in this complicated world.
I propose that it is just this fire of inoncence that is a potential antidote for the present gloom. Their wonder and awe of the true awesomeness of life allows them to see and create in the world without expectation -- they are free to see the world as it could (and should?) be.
Adults often believe that we know more about life than children because we have survived longer and "know the rules."
We adults have learned how to survive on an incredibly dangerous and unpredictable planet and our wisdom deserves celebration and respect. My concern is the degree to which we anchor in our assertions of knowing the truth -- the degree to which we make our beliefs nonmalleable, rigid and fundamentalist.
With age and experience, many of us harden -- "the world is a hard, tough, boring place -- childish games and stories will only distract you from the REAL work that needs to be done." Somewhere along the way we have lost that giddy, bubbling enamoration with each other and the world around us.
Geneen Marie Haugen, in her essay "Imagining Earth," eloquently depicts the phenomena of an adult broken from the spell of childhood joy:
Until the spell is broken, the world sparkles and brims with companions and playmates, daemons and demons. Everything is alive and significant, thrilling, sometimes terrifying. Stones, clouds and butterflies are capable of conversation. For most Western adults, the spell was broken long ago and an enchanted worldview of anyone past age six or so is dismissed as naivete, animism, magical thinking, or regarded with suspicion -- perhaps mental illness or crackpot mysticism.
As a society, perhaps as part of "higher" educational institutions, along the way, we have learned to drown out playfulness and creativity and replace it solely with "hard" science, and "facts."
(My abundant use of quotations is 100 percent necessary.)
New research shows that success and healing is achieved by just the opposite of our learned shut down and get-to-work attitude. In his book, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Stuart Brown, M.D., documents the profound importance of play in adult life. Subjects of his book range from prisoners to Noble Prize winners and the power of play has shown to have impacts in healing relationships and reducing criminal behavior.
Are we currently tipping the scales in discipline and realism to the point where we have drained the beauty and hope from life? Can balance be returned by observing and practicing childlike innocence?
Children and their unmatched skill in the art of play hold a key to success and health: imagination. Through modern perspectives and presumptions, many of us have lost the reverence for imagination. In doing so, we may have crippled the innovation and ability to create a beautiful, healthy, resilient world.A wise man once said in spiritual ceremony:
"Your imagination is the power of creation."
A recent New York Times article, The Reality of Quantum Weirdness, illuminates findings in quantum physics that show our thoughts alter reality at the particle-level. If our dreams and goals are thoughts, perhaps it's safe to conclude that there is no limit to their ability to shape our reality. Our imagination literally is creation.
If imagination and our intentions directly created reality, wouldn't that mean that anything is possible so long as we could dream it? According to Vedic tradition, even the worst (death, suffering, etc.) is simply a fleeting game, a play, or lila (Srimad Bhagavatam 3.26.4), of the Universe learning, dreaming, about itself. The Universe may be just one, infinitely large-hearted child, playing with different forms via the imagination/creation of us all.
Therefore, why not join the cosmic play, and dream like a child -- pretending, knowing that anything we can conceive of is possible?
I challenge us to bring the luminescence, the enchantment, the sparkle and the joy back into our magical lives by imitating children's affinity for play, imagination, and dreaming.
Call me crazy or call me inspired, I'm going to go sing to the trees and let the fire of innocent imaginative play spread.