Monday, July 18, 2011

EYES OF A CHILD – Like You’ve Never Seen Before

What is it about the eyes of a child? Could they possibly be any wider open, any purer, any more completely in the moment? When the downy little head of a one-year-old turns your way, and those great, round eyes meet yours, you can’t help but be struck by both how voraciously and how generously they see, eagerly grasping every detail, yet with an innocence that’s utterly free of judgment or guile.

There’s also something especially disarming, I think, about eyes that look up at you—as children's eyes usually do. Could it be some instinctual comfort we experience when we’re dominant? If someone’s looking up at you, they must either be smaller or in a subservient position and, therefore, pose no threat.

Does it tap into our inherent drive to protect and nurture the innocent and vulnerable? Or do we see something in that gaze that puts us in touch with the sacred? Might we, at some level, associate it with the way a newcomer to heaven might perceive God?

Every observation within their pull swirls inescapably into their possession, as if swallowed
by a benign black hole. 

Whatever the reason, I’m utterly undone by kids' eyes—captivated by the way they envelope and explore everything, including me, as if they were holding it, turning it over, feeling it. Their capacity seems so far out of proportion to their size. Every observation and impression within their pull swirls inescapably into their possession, as if swallowed by a benign black hole.

A baby’s eyes are just as enchanting for what they don’t show. They harbor no assumptions, no prejudice. The vulnerable way they gaze up at you would be the same if you were Miss America or Quasimodo. They’re not yet well versed in fear.

Expectation, disappointment, competition, prejudice—none of these attitudes is intrinsic to homo sapiens. They're learned. That’s why you don’t see them in a one-year-old’s eyes…and why you may start to see them in a two-year-old’s. What does that tell you?

Oh, that we could learn to give and receive 
that sweet, open, vulnerable look more often!

It tells me that the brightness that fades gradually from some children's eyes is getting obscured, layer upon layer, by lessons we wouldn’t teach them if we knew any better. Like sheets of sheer gauze, the first few of these filters may escape notice, but add enough of them, and the wrapping becomes nearly opaque, all but blocking the curiosity, delight and wonder that should remain every child's essence.

Some kids manage to keep that essence, that clarity, in their eyes longer than others. Even a child who’s learned to frown, pout and throw tantrums can, at other times, when the “attitude” falls away, give the most unguarded, most innocent of looks. I’ve seen it in the eyes of ten-year-old boys, who look up at their dads as if to say “I want to be just like him.” I’ve even seen it—though I must say very seldom—in the eyes of an adult. Oh, that we could learn to give and receive that sweet, open, vulnerable look more often!

When I’m with Nature, I try to put on my child’s eyes. It's not always easy. (Maybe I just have too much on my mind, or can't find and remove all those layers that come to cloud the clear innocence of one's perception.) But I want that openness, that vulnerability. I want to be so free of expectation that I can’t be disappointed.

Above all, I want to see everything as if I’d never seen anything before.

The eyes are the window to the soul. –  ENGLISH PROVERB


Bebbilane said...

Innocence, a topic that I have come across recently quite frequently. Keeping innocence is so hard in such a tough world. I try, and one way I do that is to realize that every day, every moment, every view, every taste, every sunset..means so much. Who knows when it will be the last one we get.

Have a wonderful day and keep the wonder! I love your blogs!

Jeffrey Willius said...

Dear Bebbi -- You're so kind! Yes, that native innocence we all start out with seems to get taught out of us. It's still there; we just have to keep it clean and well-oiled so it doesn't rust ;-)
Obviously, you're doing just that! Thanks for the comment.

Meg said...

Jeff, this is a beautiful post! And I agree that we are taught all those attitudes that diminsh the openess of the child in each of us. Self-preservation gone amok! I am so pleased when I find a fellow Wonder Seeker, and am realizing more and more how many of us are actively cultivating that awareness as a practice. My mother told me a definition of humility that I try (not always successfully!) to keep in mind: Remaining teachable! Always a treat to read you Jeff!

Jeffrey Willius said...

Thanks so much, Meg! Yes, I feel we're a growing community of wonderers. And a big part of that, for me, is the humility you mention -- valuing, as a child does, learning more than knowing. You're a good friend, Meg!

Anonymous said...

This is beautifully written and expressed. It is so true, that at an early age we are taught to drop this innocence. It is trained out of us because it is "dangerous" for those that are in power. If we keep this innocence we know that we are safe at all times, we are aware of the wonder that surrounds us.

I was just talking to a beautiful lady that is currently studying for her PhD. "Your in school right now?" I asked. "Yes, I am studying for my PhD. I am still not an adult" she answered. I told her being an adult is highly over rated. I sensed within her this innocence that you are talking about, and her statement went right to my heart as I sensed she felt that eventually she needed to become and adult, and I knew that it would be the death of that inner beauty that was shining through her at that moment.

Thank you for reminding us that our deepest beauty is to look at the world around us with the wonder of a child!

Jeffrey Willius said...

Hey Stacey -- Thanks so much for your kind words and your contribution of that wonderful anecdote! I hope that woman keeps waking up every day and decides, "Nope, today's not the day to grow up!"
You and Bernie are playing great roles in keeping awareness, curiosity and wonder alive in all of us!!

John Rocheleau said...

Hi Jeffrey,

When I saw Robin's share I had to have a look. Children's eyes fascinate me also. They are often so clear as you say, and devoid of guardedness.

Here's another photo and some thoughts on the subject to add to the mix:


Jeffrey Willius said...

Hi John -- I like your article very much! I'm pretty good at the little Buddha exercise, but can always use more practice.
Also, I wonder if, in some ways, these special abilities see their mirror image toward the end of life -- when, again, our conventional "abilities" are diminished. Thanks for the comment.

John Rocheleau said...

Hi Jeffery,

I agree with you about the end of life having the possibility of mirroring these simpler qualities. It is a choice we make, not, as we grow older -- to use the changes in this way.

Jeffrey Willius said...

Yes, during most of our lifetime it is a choice. But it seems that in childhood and old age there may be something at work that's more powerful than our choice.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Jeff...there are times when in the mountains I remove the glasses I need out here and find I see just fine. Even if that is only an affect of my own mind I am okay with that. Kia Kaha e hoa...

Jeffrey Willius said...

Tēnā koe, Robb. That's such a great metaphor for how we tend to see the things most important to us. Thanks for the comment.

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