Childlike Thinking

I saw this cartoon today that depicts two little girls standing next to a scale. One warns the other, “Don’t step on it. . .  It makes you cry.” It’s also here: http://roses-are-read.blogspot.com/2008/06/don-step-on-itit-makes-you-cry.html

It started me thinking about how children often view the world differently from the way adults do. I thought of a similar cartoon one could make with more of a political lesson. Imagine Barack Obama delivering a speech where two ittle boys are in the audience. One says to the other, “I think people don’t like him because his ears are too big.”

The irony is that the truth is more bizarre than this cute fiction. Why do people really hate Obama? Because he’s a Muslim intent on remaking the U.S. as an Islamic theocracy? Because he’s a socialist who wants to destroy every business? Because he wasn’t actually born in this country so he doesn’t deserve to be its president? Because he wants to drive every medical doctor into the poorhouse? Because he’s not white enough? Because he’s not black enough? Now stop and reflect on the ideas you have just considered. Are these ideas objectively better than hating a person because he has big ears? At least the assertion that he has big ears can likely be verified as true. I think it’s worse to hate someone for something that he isn’t than to hate him for something he is.

So many people in the punditocracy are so set in their ways that it seems they haven’t changed their ideas about ANYTHING in the last 15 years. And that scares me. It should scare more of us. Especially when you realize that fifteen years ago it was 1996. If you wore a shirt from 1996, people would snicker. If you carried around a cell phone from 1996, people would really start laughing. Why do we give people a pass for spouting ideas from 1996?

I guess I’m a liberal although the more I listen to Lewis Black the more I think I should get my head examined if I even dream of identifying with either the left or the right. But being a liberal, if that’s what I am, doesn’t mean I believe change is always good. Certainly there are ideas that can stand the test of time. For instance, the idea that a woman should get a college education. Or the idea that no one should be turned away from a hospital because he cannot pay the bill.

Often we assume that people are maturing when really they are just aging. Aging is certain. You cannot avoid becoming older. But maturing implies growth and development. And honestly, when I listen to what some people are saying or what some writers are typing, I see a marked lack of growth.

To bring this post back to where it started, I think I need to take young children as my role models. Not the tantrums or the lack of impulse control, but the freshness of perspective and the flexibility to learn. I love that a 5-year old girl will tell me what she dreamed about last night. I love that a child can repeat a foreign word with pitch-perfect accuracy. I cherish the spirit of the Kindergartener who can embrace a new friend  with total trust and a complete lack of suspicion. And that is childlike thinking.

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