I am going out on a limb here, but stick with me. I often hear people say that we should be more “childlike.” The reason being that children are pure of heart. If we connect to our inner child, we too will become pure of heart. This has always irritated me. Yes, children are blissfully, wonderfully, naïve. They are pure of heart. They often speak little pearls of wisdom. When they are happy and full of wonder, it is a joy. This is true.
Children are also needy. They need. They need adults to guide them. They need a world that protects and provides for them. They are dependent on outside forces to create the conditions for their bliss. And this is why this analogy annoys me. The work of coming into consciousness isn’t about living in a blissfully unaware state that depends upon the world to take care of us. Consciousness demands action. Consciousness demands that we become aware of ourselves in the world. It is accepting that, should we desire transcendence, we have to do the work of transcending our “self.”
That is why, I think we should all try to be more like middle schoolers.
Middle school is a liminal age. It is a great ball of hormonal fire hurtling towards adolescence at a snail’s pace. It is slow and awkward and often painful being a tween. They are awakening to adulthood, yet still comfortably nestled in the safety net of childhood. Tweendom is the bridge between Christmas Past and Christmas Yet to Come. They are more aware of themselves, but they are still so goofy. As they struggle to come understand life’s limitations, they are open to possibilities. They struggle with being sentient, with self-identity, and yet they are still very playful. They have amazing insight and are not afraid; but, they are also extremely self-conscious and totally afraid.
Tweens are, in many ways, the embodiment of present mindedness. They are becoming more aware of themselves, they are interested in the possibilities of an awakened life, but they still want to be tucked in at night. They still believe in fantasy, but are also weirdly practical. Funny, goofy, stinky, emotionally all over the place; middle schoolers are basically every one of our internal lives living outside our bodies. The other day my middle schooler turned to me and said, “being alive is so hard!”
Welcome to the big leagues, kid.
And this is not to say that little kids aren’t their own emotional wrecking balls, they are. But, toddlers have little to no control over their emotional lives. They are basically the Id in small shoes, daring you to try and make them feel better. A tween’s awareness, however, is dawning. They are trying to get comfortable with their burgeoning consciousness. They struggle every day with how to accept that they are small, insignificant, different; yet, they remain confident that a fantastic journey is just around the corner.
That is why I recommend that we be more like a tween. Don’t give up the thrill of make believe, hang on to the beauty of imagination, but channel it through the angst. Our angst is our longing. Longing is our consciousness’s urge to connect to something greater than ourselves. It’s the twitchy, itchy nerve that is only satisfied when we are truly connected to the beautiful. Our separateness creates the longing for connection. Longing, when directed and focused, draws us into the experience of beauty, into Pure Consciousness, Jiva, God. This experience teaches us how to be a good friend, a good neighbor, a good, global citizen. It moves us beyond the self and into the Self.
I know this may be way out there, but I stand by it. Tweens for the win! What about you? Do you remember what it was like to be a tween? Do you have a tween in your life now? If you had the chance to do it all again, would you?