Lang with cicada on noseWhat does it truly mean, as an adult, to be a child again? From my perspective, it is to touch upon an innocent frame of mind, an emotional state that is at once light-hearted, fun, and receptive to the beauty, the miracle around us. To lose that, as many adults do, seems sad and unnecessary. I personally strive to keep that flame alive within me, to experience it whenever I can, for without it I would not be able to survive in good health and spirits.

Rachel Carson expressed this idea elegantly in her book The Sense of Wonder:

Rachel Carson photo“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years…the alienation from the sources of our strength.”

Brother David Steindl-Rast, in his brilliant book A Listening Heart, had this to say:

Brother David Steindl-RastOnly our Inner Child can tingle with delight at simple pleasures like bare feet in wet grass, a slide into a swimming pool, or the smells of a picnic. We need to find that child hiding inside us, let it out, let it run without clothes, let it have fun … This child is within each of us and will indeed lead us, if we are willing to pay the price. That price is high: trust in life, come what may.”

If childlike wonder does not remain a vital part of our maturity, then we may very well end up forever soured to a world that isn’t to our liking, with no antidote other than to rail against it all, or else retreat into ourselves, into dreamworlds of our own construction.

Even if our earth ship is sinking (due to climate change, rampant development, etc.), it remains imperative that we retain our ability to touch the miracle, and to smile, laugh, embrace, and love without judgement. Otherwise, we will not be able to live happily and react to life’s challenges with sanity and forethought.

In closing, I would like to share a poem by yours truly that intersects with this theme. Let me know what you think of it!


in a flash, before my eyes,
my life begun, my life gone by,
i ask myself … who am i?

and have I changed, since days of yon,
or do I sing the selfsame song,
of celebration, joy of heart,
instilled in me, right from the start?

for though my years roll quickly by
i’m still the little boy inside
who roamed the fields and woods back home
who danced to nature’s splendent poem

and as my life draws to an end
my listening heart returns again
to halcyon days, so safe and warm
when i was lost in nature’s charm

now once again, the burst of spring
now once again, the wild notes ring

i hear the dreaming of the toad
i watch the newborn spring explode
i smell the fragrant earthly bloom
i lay at peace within the womb
with ne’er a thought of leaving soon

Essay and Poem © Lang Elliott, 2016
(first drafts: Autumn 2014)

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