Sunday, March 12, 2006

Yonatan


[Picture taken unknowingly by the approaching friend]


He came out of nowhere.

It's a windy day and I'm sitting on the bench, ignoring my messy hair
and waiting for a friend.

Walking by slowly, he looked at me curiously.

Something about him forced me out of my shell, and I smiled at him. He
accepted with a shy forwardness, and took a seat on the bench next to
me.

When I asked him what he was doing, he told me that a big wind had
come and he lost his friends.

We became immediate buddies.

----------

His name is Yonatan. He is a four year old on a mission.

Yonatan came to release something within me that's been hidden, put
down, and woefully unexpressed.

I asked him questions, and he answered with enthusiasm. He was
completely unafraid when he realized I don't speak his language fluently. It didn't matter to him. There could be nothing in the way of what he was sent here to do.

He told me about his family. He told me about school. He's very
excited for Purim. He wishes they didn't have to learn about Pesach
yet. He likes candy, and seemed unsure of my sincerity when I shared his enthusiasm.

But the thing is, I was being totally sincere. While talking to
Yonatan, I realized that I was expressing a vulnerability that I have
closed of to most people. I felt light and simple. I towered over him,
but I felt soft and small. There was something about this four year
old that was overpowering me.

I thought I was innocent, but Yonatan opened me up to the kind of
innocence that I have forgotten to value.

It's the kind of innocence that let's you approach people with a smile. The
innocence that doesn't see boundaries. The innocence that lets you
give all of your attention to the moment. An innocence that believes
in it's own strengths, but that takes itself lightly. An innocence
that sees beauty, discovery, and adventure everywhere. The kind of
innocence that trusts the goodness in others, and won't be convinced otherwise. An innocence that allows dependence on another. An innocence that wears no sign of unnecessary seriousness.

An innocence that doesn't know how innocent it really is.

Yonatan made me miss the child I once was. I never got to say goodbye. Who dared to steal my youth and why did I not protest? Why can't I be more like Yonatan? Can I recover what's been lost? Can I invite my inner child back into this world I've created? Will it be comfortable with the new me?

I'm too serious. Serious about learning. Serious about relationships.
Even my happiness with life has a seriousness it can't seem to escape.
But deep beneath my intensity, my ever present feeling of mature
existence, is a child. A child that went to sleep without a lullaby
and has been waiting for someone to jump in and turn on the light.


If I would have had more articulate Hebrew skills working for me at
the moment, I would have told Yonatan that he changed something within me by stopping to say hi, by sitting on the bench and talking with me. I would have told him that his precious smile lit up a world within me that's been dark for way too long.

It pains me to think that, one day, Yonatan might come across someone who will send him the message - albeit subtly - that he "needs to grow up." It frustrates me that something about this world might ruin Yonatan's soft nature, make him serious, get tainted, and never turn back - all without even saying goodbye.

But why can't we all be a little bit more childish? Why do we all
leave a part of ourselves behind? As we grow up, our inner child wants to as well - but it never asked to be destroyed, to be forgotten. It still wants to be a part of our new world, our new adventures. Why do we fear our inner child? Why can't we grow up together?

I wanted to ask Yonatan if I could carry him around in my pocket. But, no. Yonatan knows my new mission. He vanished as quickly as he came, leaving me feeling old and lonely - but inspired to waken my inner playground.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh so inspiring and touching. An amazing course in psychology all from a blog. Absolutely awesome Mim! Your eyes see but your Neshana illuminates. Wow!

Anonymous said...

There is much to be said about innocence and the simplicity of childhood. On the other hand, it is the intensity and seriousness of the adult mindset that makes life more than a care-free romp through the park. We were created with a purpose, and much of what we envy in youth is that seeming satisfaction with the way things are, life in the moment.

While there are many qualities which can, and should be, to be learned from the young, it is the adult who carries the purpose of creation on his shoulders. It may be refreshing to take a nostalgic breath of fresh air once in a while, but the ultimate is in the struggle of those who can no longer afford to be care-free.

Learn from their perspective, but don’t get stuck in the sandbox.

--G

Nemo said...

I agree.

A child is like an animal {albeit somewhat more intellectual}. Kids desire whats beneficial for them and instinctively for their survival.

The life-long mission of a person is to reverse the selfishness while increasing knowledge and intellect. Otherwise, how much greater is man than beast {or even stone}?

Anonymous said...

Good point, Nemo.

That having been said, I don't think selfishness has to do with kids necessarily. It is a very natural perspective of every created being. It is the traits more accurately associated with childhood, like honesty to the point of being blunt, and the fact that they are dependent on others, that makes it more pronounced by them.

The inherent qualities of youth make it worthy of our nostalgia (and, yes, imitation), just as the closeness to Hashem we experienced in Gan Eden is worthy of nostalgia - and both need to be put in perspective. We experience them in order to give us the strength and endurance to do what we do here and now.

If bringing them to mind serves as a boost, or even a reminder that we needn’t stray further from there than necessary, then that memory is positive. If it causes us to attempt to recreate that experience instead of transforming ourselves and the world around us, it ceases being an aid, and become a distraction.

--G

(I keep feeling guilty about these long posts... I'm going to learn to keep my mouth shut.:-p )

Nemo said...

Nostalgia just reminded me of the greatest childhood memories, Toys R' Us commercials....

"I don't wanna grow up.... I just wanna be a Toys R' Us kid"

Nusach Acher- ... "I just wanna be a Goys R' Us Yid"

Ilana said...

That is very beautiful, and I agree completely that innocence and enthusiasm need to stay with us our entire lives. When we have relinqueshed those, we have not matured but regressed, not grown up but gave up our color and vibrancy that makes us worthwhile people. Seriousness is good, but it has to be all wrapped up in unbridled enthusiasm, joy, and spontaniety. I think, at least. :)

Dov said...

I like the discussion here.

I agree that as we mature from child to adult we obtain a new perspective on life. We become sensitive to the imperfections in this world. We have a deeper grasp on things. We develop a sense of purpose. Some (not all) are acutely aware that our existence is part of something greater, and we try and take that into account as we Be. That's definitely a weight we bear that a child does not.

Yet, with all that is this physical reality, this beautiful tragedy, it can rape us of so much of our inner and essential essence, transforming us into a dull being, stripped of passion, and love.

A child's innocence is largely blissful ignorance. So while that innocence is to be cherished, it is not itself what we should value, but the qualities that this innocence sets free.

I think the most powerful amongst us take the best of that Child with them: wide eyed fascination with the world around us, the acceptance of others, listening to (and now channeling) our passions, the brightness, the enthusiasm, and yes playing... celebrating life in its infinite beauty, its exponential potential.

May we bear the weight of purpose with the profound wisdom and senstivities of age, and the joy and acceptance of a child.

--D

Anonymous said...

I want to begin by saying how much i enjoy your blog, you eloquently communicate your powerful feelings and insights, please continue.
I would like to share something that happened at the shabos table this week,
we were talking how almost all people in this world are lost, when the 8 year child said: I'm not lost and my brother zevi he's not either lost.
I only wish that the child would know how right he realy is.

Mimi said...

To the most recent anonymous: Thanks so much for the compliments and encouragement. It means a lot, and I especially love when other people can be in tune with what I wrote about, as you seem to be.

I love the encounter you shared. It's a perfect example of what I saw in Yonatan. Thanks so much for letting me in on that - I'm going to have to repeat that.

The Red Pen said...

I just want to start by saying that until now I was content with reading your blog without commenting as I rarely feel there is anything I could say that could add to your posts. They are always eloquent and precise.

Yoni is the embodiment of what I was thinking when I wrote "I never aged".
The innocence, the exhilaration for a perfect day, truly enjoying and living the joy of a holiday, the freedom to profess a love of a simple treat without fearing what others will say, and the ability to approach a stranger and share the beauty, the love and the insight only a child can project.

What is it they say, "The gift of youth is wasted on the young."

On a side note I hope I didn't offend you when I wrote you were "religious", I meant it as a compliment, not g-d forbid the opposite. Your writings are a wake up call at times. It like a weekly Farbrengen, only more constructive than a farbi usually is.

Keep on writing, and Keep strong.

chang said...

dearest mini,
my thoughts exactly...
(only not half as well said)
:)
bless you.
c

Anonymous said...

I think we have to stay the child. A child goes through life like it's a playground. That's exactly what it is - Hashem's playground. We have to continue loving it. Maturing only means - i think - acquiring new tools to scale the monkey bars, to be able to empathize with the kid on the bench you want to be friends with, to make more delightful games in a corner of the playground that you passed by at first.
Living in the playground like a child means delighting in all of it. The Rebbe says - and I read this in Towards A Meaningful Life -that we can learn from children that our naturaly state is joy.
Living in the playground like a child precludes philosophically justified passiveness; just get out there and make fun!
It takes away self - consciousness.
It's what we're supposed to be doing.
Appreciating Hashem's world. Delighting it. Creating delight where it wasn't apparent before. With joy because it's Hashem's desire - nothing more sophisticated than that.
Anybody read Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz's article on preserving simplicity (Tree of Knowledge, Tree of Life?) Rabbi Tzvi Freeman's book, Heaven Exposed?
Chanah.