The Answer to the Primal Question
Around the age of ten, often uncles, aunts or other adults ask, “What are you going to do when you grow up?” We had no idea at that age and so shrugged our shoulders or made up some answer. In a few short years, however, we began seriously asking ourselves that same question and looked for role models to imitate. It typically takes almost a lifetime to discover that the answer is when I’ve grown up I’m going to start growing down! That journey of descending back to being little instead of big is more difficult than ascending Mount Everest. Most of us lack the courage to grow downward fearing we’ll appear foolish or senile, so others whom we might emulate are rare!
Yet in late middle age we unconsciously begin this essential descent when to our embarrassment a movie, a song or some stirring event moves us to where our eyes brim over with tears. A small child on the contrary cries openly and loudly without shame, and usually the tears disappear miraculously in minutes. As a mature adult we attempt to suppress tears at times like weddings and even the funeral of someone we love. Mature persons are expected to have mastery over their emotions…both sorrow and joy. Society expects sophistication.
Several are the difficulties of growing down. As a grown up person you are expected to be serious and somber which overrules the rowdiness of a child’s noisy joy. Adults are big and self-reliant, while children are little and dependent, and usually the least important in a crowd. To grow down is the essential life task of each of us. The Teacher was asked, “How does one enter the kingdom?” He didn’t say by keeping all the commandments or going to church, but rather replied, “Unless you become as little children you will not enter the kingdom of heaven!” True saints are not sophisticated!
So if you desire to “grow down,” become a student of Silence in whose solitary quiet classroom you learn to forget yourself and become unimportant, cease being restless or worrying what others think of you. In brief: you learn to be free! Surprisingly, children are presented to us as role models who by their uninhibited tears, hilariously joyful laugher and happy playing, experience God without knowing it!
Saint Seraphim of Sarov, who spent thirty years in silent solitude, was said to wildly run out to meet every person he saw coming, bow down, then with open arms gleefully cry out, “Oh, my brother, my sister, my joy!”