Innocent wonder

I showed the full moon to a toddler a few weeks ago. She was mesmerized, transfixed at the sight of this circular, pearly object I pointed at. I felt quite pleased with myself — not every day do we get to invoke such wonder in others so easily. I speculated whether, by some random chance, she will remember this moment like I remember some of my own moongazing experiences from my infancy.

Adults are, of course, not so easy to impress. We have lost the ability to appreciate the mundane things around us somewhere in the process of growing up. This is natural. The brain is the most energy-intensive organ in the body and thus activates its full resources only when absolutely necessary. Once we grow accustomed to our surroundings, it filters out all the static, non-threatening details in its quest to save energy. We live on autopilot. Neither do we notice the tiny wildflowers growing on our lawns nor do we usually stop to look at the moon.

It’s a noble goal to attempt to retain the innocent wonder of childhood though, against the wishes of evolution. Holden Caulfield from the novel The Catcher in the Rye is obsessed with this very idea:

I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.

The “crazy cliff” signifies the fall from innocence — the act of growing up. Holden Caulfield: protector and preserver of all things innocent.

At this point, I probably sound like the stereotypical English teacher stretching the metaphor of the blue curtains [1]. I’ll stop now. But gosh, do I love that book.

[1] For reference:

Curtains are blue




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