Friday, January 15, 2010

More Things in Heaven and Earth

I often think that I want my children to be happy. But actually, I want a lot more than that for them.  I want something deeper, more complex; in the end something harder to want.

My seven year-old came downstairs last night in tears, so upset she could hardly tell me what was wrong. It finally came out that she was crying because of the death three years ago of a family friend. We had visited this dear woman several times during the time that we were living near her, and spending time with her clearly left an impression. I’m so glad my children got to know her and love her, and I’m so thankful that the relationship touched my daughter so deeply. But the experience brought sadness, too.  The sorrow my daughter felt stemmed from all sorts of things: the loss of a relationship, the awareness of the passage of time, the inevitability of death. I’m not sure happiness knows about these things. Joy does. Joy lives in the midst of them and overcomes them.  Happiness skims the surface of life.  Joy knows the deeper things and is glad to have them, even when having them brings sorrow.

One last beautiful bit from Beyond Words: Mystical Fancy in Children's Literature by James E. Higgins:

Writers like Macdonald, Hudson, Saint-Exupéry, Tolkien, Lewis, and others are men stunned by the awesome beauty of the universe, and yet they are forever in their stories trying to capture hints of this magic wonder. They are men alone, separated as they are from their fellows by their knowledge of how little they really know. They are men with strong appetites for the wonderful. They are sad men, too, knowing as they do, how difficult it is to satisfy the appetites of the heart. The sadness that pervades their books is the joyful sadness of mortal men reaching for the immortal.

And later:

The child himself undoubtedly will never be aware of the part that such stories may play in the process of his education. And yet, perhaps while reading Hamlet in later years, or upon seeing it performed, some distant echo will help him to know exactly what the Prince means when he says to his friend:
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

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