Do you know why we like babies? They’re innocent, as in not running the world through their experience. Do not get me wrong, babies are not born with a blank slate—a tabula rasa—they are born with personalities, and hence with certain predilections. Babies clearly influence their learning. However, as babies, their predilections are not their doing, rather it’s a developmental combination of the uterine environment, the mother’s—and to some extent the father’s—contribution to that environment, along with what transpires after birth. In short, babies are like sponges, looking, looking, seeing, seeing, and gathering in as much as they can. They are not in the business of trying to be understood, they’re trying to understand.
However, as they get older, they begin the process of spinning experience through their previous experience. They’re no longer like sponges, soaking up their environs, they’re little scientists with a need to be understood. Odd combination that.
As I’ve written here before, the job of adults is to move from naïve innocence to smart innocence. Smart innocence is awareness full of wonder, but not so easily fooled. Naïve innocence is awareness full of wonder, but easily fooled.
Taking charge of our individual awareness is a tough task, not a job for the meek of heart. It takes a certain kind of leadership to command awareness, rather than to have experiential awareness alone command the individual. This isn’t to say that we can morph at will into anything we want, it is to say that we are not flotsam-and-jetsam beings dragged along by whatever stream of consciousness we find ourselves in. Taking the lead in developing smart innocence, in regaining our sense of wonder and amazement, requires more than book learning and more than street smarts—it requires letting go of the lead dog of our beings: The cause and effects we have “experienced.”
Imagine a population of adults who are smart and full of amazement. They delight in good work, flying kites, marveling at the stars, or sitting by a lake and pondering. They are eager to engage with others by truly listening. They deeply smile again—wowed by the taste of food, the silence, the sounds, drinking fountains, natural hot springs, heated car seats. In such a people, imagine the love.
We would be empty, like sponges, and ready to apprehend the world inside and outside ourselves. We would not be doe-eyed in the process, buying into ridiculously constructed travesties or skimming along some cognitive/emotional edge on the brink of collapse yet just as happy as if we had good sense.
Such a state of awareness is darn near overwhelming on the contaminated side of it. Think about our lack of leadership in this regard. Think how we let our amazement be overwhelmed by growing up. Think how our awareness has been hijacked by non-playful nagging of one kind or another. What if we said “no more”? What if we took charge of our awareness, not to boss ourselves or others around, but to reset awareness without losing what we really know? What if we quit letting the lead dog of our experience-sled go where it wanted?
I’ll bet we not only get to keep the alpha-dogs of our experience, but we gain a lightness of being again. And we get to direct the experience-sled, with humor and heightened attention.
Not to go to the well once too often, but what if we could do all of this for ourselves and then come together as a community? I bet we wouldn’t need to sleep so much—life would just be too full of wonder and marvel to drift into abeyance. And I bet we wouldn’t suffer from sleep deprivation because of it. Uncontaminated awareness is not nearly so overwhelming, so taxing and difficult as the kind of awareness we presently seem to occupy.
I bet we would be lit-up. I bet there wouldn’t be much we couldn’t accomplish.
Free at last indeed…