Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Human nature

There's a theme that I return to in my mind quite often. We're all children. Infants, even. Infants wearing adult clothes, (or armor), but infants all the same.

Recently, Leo has been reinforcing this idea in me. I look at him, and I am only more persuaded that in each person's heart of hearts, the deepest felt joy will come from being held. And held not by just anybody, but by arms in which we can place total, unreserved, innocent trust.

The longer I think on this idea, the more I am convinced that our adult selves have little inherent value. The virtues of maturity, skill, charm, culture, and responsibility are all useful. But being useful isn't inherently valuable--it is only valuable to achieve an end. What end? To find a way to let our infant selves be held, or whatever approximation of that we can attain.

This perspective alters my understanding of good and evil. Most of the time, I suspect evil is an adult self which has forgotten its true purpose, and forgotten the true nature of people. When adult selves abandon seeking after the primordial infant need to be tenderly loved, they magnify the (perhaps more easily reached) adult needs into ends in themselves. Power, control, money, admiration, respect--all necessary and good, but when they take lives of their own they become monsters.

It also relieves me of some of the stresses of daily life. When I count the number of things that aren't going my way, I can see that in fact none of them impact or even threaten my ability to be held and loved, and so ultimately they are only so much wind. I like to believe that the theory leads me to treat other human beings better, too.

One thing that this theory lacks is an account of being on the giving end of that tender holding, rather than the receiving end. To hold and love a baby requires a lot of adult skills--maturity, patience, etc. But it cannot be reduced to one of those adulthoods. Caring for a child is not just one adult activity. In a way, it is the adult activity. It is that for which all of those other adult skills are intended. It is the condition for possibility for each new person's first taste of that tenderness that they will always, on some level, seek.

But what some forget, I think, is that the giver of that love does not thereby cease to need it themselves. The happiest anyone can be made is to be allowed to lay down their adult armor, and be a sleeping infant in strong, caring, tireless arms.

EDIT: And yes, I know it's a cliche to talk about our "inner child". Don't care.

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