“There is a childhood into which we have to grow, just as there is a childhood which we must leave behind. One is a childishness from which but few of those who are counted wisest among men have freed themselves. The other is a child-likeness, … which is the highest gain of humanity”
-George MacDonald, David Elginbrod
There is something about childhood. There is something we once had, that we have lost. The old look with nostalgic longing at the toddler with his toys. Their eyes grow distant as forgotten memories flood to the forefront of a weary consciousness. We had something then, something of immeasurable value, something that we have forgotten…
“When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse, out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look, but it was gone. I cannot put my finger on it now. The child is grown. The dream is gone.”
-Pink Floyd, Comfortably Numb
This lost treasure seems to present itself in our memories of childhood. Our hearts are moved to breaking when we look into the eyes of the young who can pretend for hours that a pile of rocks is really a pile of precious jewels. Their imagination allows them to transcend this tiresome life, and they grasp with ease that lost realm of fairies. They are in the world, but not of it. The child sings and dances until he collapses, because he can and because he must. His delight in monotony leaves the grownups agape with wonder, and the laughter of the gods rains down upon the household when the child discovers something new.
We harken back to those days…Days that seemed as though they would never end, and we did not want them to. When the nights were filled with such mystery and magic, and even our terror of the monsters that surely lurked in the darkness imbibed our souls with a vibrancy that we have seldom felt since. All may not have been right with the world; but all was right with us, and the world became our fairy tale. Ball caps became crowns, house cats became raging lions, and a simple stick was magically transformed into a sword, a wand, or anything that we could dream up. Death was an abstract idea, one that made as little sense to us as nap-time. The time we spent asleep could far better be spent leading brave knights against an army of goblins, or defending a stagecoach from masked robbers and villains.
“Child legs are for dancing, rather than walking; voice for laughing and crying rather than the multiplication table…The child possibly has some instinctive knowledge of the clouds of glory whence he came…The child fights and rebels against the rule of three and the rule of the world, until his imagination, that holy quality without which soul has no life, is broken: until he learns to live by bread alone.”
-Greville MacDonald, The Sanity Of William Blake
This imaginative quality so abundant in children instills life even in those around them, and life to the full. Their expression of life is not less than that of the adult, but more. The magic of mirth wells up within their souls as a Creator, and a mighty hand takes hold of tiny fingers to do marvelous work. The world of the child is wonderful, for his eyes are full of wonder at all things. This is the power of mirth: That the mundane becomes magical. Yet for all of it’s commonness, that magic never ceases to be marvelous…The cup of the child, runneth over…
“I tell you with certainty, unless you change and become like little children, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.”
-Jesus, Matthew 18:3
But we lose it, don’t we? Mirth. We don’t realize when we have it, until it’s gone. When is that moment where youth betrays itself to age? When does the potential and the actual begin to separate in our minds, and bring us into this dreary “real” world, where the things that Are stand apart from the Things That Might Be? Such a dry desert it is, where life is sparse and found to be fleeting. We grow old, and into a realm populated by mere shades we run, with a hastiness that can only be described as sorrowful…we long for days filled only with mirth, but few ever really seek it. Fewer still ever find it…
“For we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
“ ‘Ah! but,’ said Tangle, “when people live long they grow old. At least I always thought so.”
“I have no time to grow old,” said the lady. “I am too busy for that. It is very idle to grow old. ”
-The Golden Key, George MacDonald
I believe that the first step to finding what we are looking for, is to really know what it is that we seek. I use the term “mirth” here to refer to that lost jewel. I include the traditional definition in my usage, while simultaneously referring to something larger. Indeed it is so large that only the heart of a child can hold it…
Often our writings are intellectual in nature. We philosophize, theologize, and rationalize. This is something different however. There is an aroma here that intrigues both the senses and the soul. What then is one to do? How can we become like little children, who love because they cannot hate? How do we go back? Is mirth even found by going back?
Perhaps it is merely life. Perhaps it is silly and even childish wishful thinking to dwell on such things. We are older and wiser now, are we not? We should not become like children again…should we?