exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity
How To Sit Quietly
In A Room Alone
The Antics of a Fretful Two Year-Old
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Most of us have witnessed, or been party to, the disquietude of a small child. The tot is throwing a fit, nothing satisfies. And now Mom serves as advocate for the inconsolable: “She’s missed her nap because we’re out this afternoon; she’s just tired”; or, “We forgot his favorite blanket at home, and so he’s cranky.”
Relatives and friends in attendance offer patronizing smiles. As the moppet wails the louder, some in the group begin to chuckle. Grandma attempts to mediate, cooing in falsesetto, “Grandma has some ice cream for you. You like ice cream.” This momentarily distracts and mollifies the focused egoism, which negotiation invites another round of chuckling from the audience.
a developmental phase
If the child, however, were 15, or 18, or 22, exhibiting this kind of incivility, there would be no easy forgiveness from onlookers. The difference, of course, is that, with a two year-old, we ascribe “lack of capacity” to puerile misdemeanors. We say “it’s only a phase” and “she’ll soon grow out of it.” We understand that the infantile mind, so burdened with egocentric viewpoint, just wants what it wants and can’t help itself. It’s part of growing up, we say. We rule in favor of the child and judge, “he doesn’t really mean it.” And so we can afford to smile at the unruly antics of a two year-old.
they know not what they do
I submit to you that there is a part of us, the unenlightened “heart of darkness,” which, until purified and cleansed, is not altogether different from the fretful two year-old. Humankind, “made in the image,” is bequeathed with an awesome heritage of potential abilities, with “no upward limit,” as Father Benson has it.
However, until we put away the “false self” of egocentrism and begin to access the “inner riches,” the “real us,” apotheosis will be put on hold, with the evaluation of elder Brother Joshua remaining in place: “They know not what they do.”
It’s like the two year-old; and two year-olds are unable to sit quietly in a room alone.