I remember my childhood vividly. I grew up in northern California and had the good fortune of being able to play outside nearly every day. My childhood took place back the 60’s, way before parents were concerned about their kids being gone all day playing. So that’s what we did. We played in the hills and creeks and rode bikes everywhere…all day.
How far back can you remember?
As young children, we were so vulnerable. We were all born into a world that we knew nothing about. Our lives were a constant experiment, with our carefree natures often being shut down, reframed or fit into a world that already existed. That's the nature of socialization. When things happened that hurt our hearts or didn’t make sense, we would hear someone bigger, older or wiser tell us things like: “The world is a tough place,” “You have to be strong,” “Life is hard,” “That’s the way it's always been,” or “That’s just what we do.”
Can you remember having innocent thoughts and feelings – thoughts untainted by someone else’s view or perspective? Can you remember that first feeling of loss when your own thought or feeling was in contradiction with that of a group or the adults in charge?
I remember as a young child barely being able to breathe when I found out that our next-door neighbors (parents) were shooting blue jays with BB guns from their back porch. I couldn’t fathom why they would do such a thing. It seemed so deliberately hurtful. What could those birds have possibly done to them? I felt deeply distressed and looked for ways to stand up to the big grownups. Needless to say, I failed. Despite my best small child efforts (which were actually pretty substantial for a kid and possibly a topic for another blog) there was an adult explanation: the blue jays were eating the robins’ eggs and the robins were a preferred species.
I was heartbroken. But the case was closed. What power did I have against adult reasoning...or preferences?
Pretty much everything we have learned about life came from the adults in our world. We looked up to them. Or we were afraid of them. Either way, they taught us how to live - the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly.
© Jasmin Merdan 123rf.com
When my first daughter was just two or three years old, I’ll never forget witnessing one of those indoctrinating moments. Sitting in her high chair, her grandmother placed a plate in front of her and said, “Here’s your fish, honey.” My young daughter immediately looked behind her where an aquarium stood - the aquarium that she loved to watch as she pointed and named the fish. The mental connection going on in her brain was transparent on her face. If there is such a thing as toddler confusion, that's what it was. To her young mind, she could see that there were “fish” swimming in the fish tank. She always loved watching those fish. Now “fish” was being introduced to her as something she was supposed to eat. How does that compute to a young and fragile mind?
None of us come into the world as violent beings. We are wide-eyed and eager to take in all of life. As children we reach for life. We want to touch it and feel it and get close to it. Killing in any form is not natural for a child. So never in a million years would my young daughter have reached into the fish tank and grabbed a living fish to satisfy her hunger. Nor would she have taken a knife to the throat of a pig or chicken or cow. The adult world had established this for her. We eat animals, period. We always have. It’s what we do. We kill for our food or pay someone to do it for us. She had no real choice in the matter.
None of us did really. Most of us had no clue that what we were eating was once a live animal who was killed against his or her will - the same kinds of animals we loved in storybooks. When we did learn this, it had already become an established pattern in our own lives. Over time we hardened ourselves and simply accepted the violence of life. And we lost our innocence.
Going forward, the easy path is to just keep doing what we’ve always done - accept the way of living that we were indoctrinated into. Don’t dig deeper. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t question. Don’t think too much. By all means don’t look back. Rationalize and defend. Marginalize those who think or act differently. Buy into all of it and pass it on to the next generation telling them, “That’s just what we do.”
When we accept “that’s just what we do” we accept human nature to be what it is, not what it could be. To be what it could be, we would have to take the much more difficult path of the spiritual journeyer and reclaim the parts of us that we lost along the way.
Deep inside us - maybe deeper than we can fathom - there is a piece of our innocence that was chipped away, but not destroyed. It is held in the heart of our inner child, who generally prefers to be in hiding and may even be afraid of being remembered. The inner child knows it is not safe to be so vulnerable. The outer world seems much too harsh to survive out in the open. So she (or he) stays in the dark. There may be momentary glimpses of her, when a flicker of light betrays her clever hiding spot in the form of a distant and vague memory or fleeting feeling. But the child remains hidden, safely in the depth of the soul.
Discovering and integrating our inner child into active adult living is a key to transforming human nature and consequently our world. When we bring our innocence to the light - truly love it, accept it and integrate it into our entire being - we will become much more whole. We will love ourselves more. We will be less serious and judgmental, and more open and kind. We will reignite our wonder for life and once again want to reach for it, touch it, feel it and bring it closer to us. We will choose ways to live without hurting and killing
This is what Jesus spoke of when he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
The kingdom of heaven is not some faraway place where we go after we die. It is a place in consciousness where Peace, Love and Harmony are fully expressed and Oneness is truly experienced. It can only be fully entered into with the innocence of our inner child because without it, we are less than whole.
This is deeply important spiritual work – to question our inherited beliefs and reclaim our innocence. It is also an ongoing process. Thankfully there are some enlightened children on the planet right now who, at a very young age, are standing up to patterns/habits handed to them by their parents which run counter to their hearts (see their videos below). But for the rest of us, until we engage in that same process of questioning and do the work to reclaim our innocent natures, we will continue to cause needless suffering for hundreds of billions of our fellow beings on the planet and not realize genuine Peace within us or in the world.
I am not a psychologist, but I am happy to support anyone who is interested in doing this important spiritual work. And I bless your journey to authentic integration.
“The wolf and the lamb will live together… and a little child will lead them.” Isaiah 11:6
© carol saunders 2017
Please watch these sweet souls and let them inspire you..There are other videos of similarly hearted children which are far more heart-wrenching. I am choosing not to display them here.
Rev. Carol Saunders
I am an ordained minister, speaker, writer and lover of all life. In 2010 I founded a spiritual community in Deerfield, IL, a suburb of Chicago, and have recently transitioned it to a weekly interactive gathering and podcast called The Spiritual Forum. Being a voice for the animals and a light for the spiritually-inclined who are willing to seriously examine the self and begin to awaken, are what Spirit has called me to be. I am here to support anyone who wants to move toward living in closer alignment with their deeply held spiritual values. Our world needs more Love, Peace and Kindness. We can make that happen. But we won't be able to until we transform some of the violent and unkind ways of living we inherited from our culture. Be Love. Be Peace. Be Kind. Today.
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