For years, I have told my children, partly tongue in cheek, that if I was humble I would be perfect. I think I can see the next step.
We attended the christening of Egan, our newest grandchild, on Sunday. It is easy to be thankful for grandchildren. They give us insight into the meaning of life and church is a fine place for perspective.
The thought for the day is innocence.
Is the journey away from childhood innocence a one-way trip?
Consider this song.
Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn’t have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standin’ by
But “happily ever after” fails
The End of The Innocence by Don Henley & Bruce Hornsby
Sounds one-way to me. Or is it?
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14 New International Version.
I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3
Jesus anticipates a way to return to innocence. However, it will not be and cannot be the same innocence as that of the child. You cannot unring a bell or unsend an email, but maybe you can become a reformed cynic.
What do we mean by innocence? Not naïveté, because you cannot recreate that once you know things. The child’s innocence is “uninformed.” You have no fears, opinions or biases about that which you do not know.
We must seek “informed innocence.”
That will not be easy because all, or at least most of what we learn, turns us to cynicism, fanaticism and arrogance. Not to innocence. There must be an intermediate step. Perhaps humility. Maybe wisdom.
As we become more aware, how is that we become cynical instead of humble and wise? Likely because we do not carry our study far enough. There is a process to learning and we need to go all the way through that process.
Consider the levels of experience.
The first level is data. Random spots. Blips without context. They could be true or not or they could be the presentation of spin artist. The internet is full of data that look important and useful, but are not necessarily true or fitted to a real world structure. Especially not to mine.
The second level is information. A random spot of data that is true and contextually appropriate. Trusted data.
The third level is knowledge. information that is in context, attached to other relevant information and weighted properly. No exaggeration and no diminishment. The information attaches to and adds to a body of knowledge. It probably opens the way to learning more as the knowledge structure becomes larger.
The fourth level is meaning. What is the knowledge for? How does it affect the real world? How does the real world affect it? Where is it going?
The fifth level is wisdom: How do I relate to the meaning? Something can be true, artfully fitted to a structure, and growing, but still say little about whether I should be concerned. I can play and enjoy a CD with very limited knowledge of the quantum physics on which it depends.
Here is the stretch. Will this wisdom lead to humility?
When I can see the world and its parts, I understand how I can contribute. I can see what to ignore. I can act constructively. I can see the others and their fit. I can be useful. I can be respectful of others, the world in general and of myself. I think I could be humble then.
I can do none of that if I stop at information or even at knowledge. I need to find meaning if only for a few things.
Grandchildren deliver the opportunity to appreciate the things that matter. Somehow, problems fade into the background when you consider their future.
Thank you Michael, Kathryn, Rory, Noa and Egan. And their parents. And Margaret too. And Dad. And more.
You fulfill my life.