Peter Roy: As Wise as Children


What I've Learned from Children: A Reflection


Making up stories is simple. It is far harder to write lived histories, which are as melodious to the ear as made up ones.

Everything that I experienced when I stopped being what I was, a nonentity, and started to become who I am, someone, was the living through of an unbelievable story.

An unbelievable and yet true story. A story as beautiful and as ugly as life itself. Ugly? It taught me, this story, that being an adult is a kind of masquerade. And that being a child means being one's self.

The road to myself went through the child within myself.

Children have showed me the way to the child within myself, which at the time was still buried, and lay fallow like a stagnant field, and which searched for its parents, and above all, me.

Children were my true teachers. It was from them that I learned what wisdom really is. And what, above all, it was not. Not school knowledge, not collegiate conceit, not book wisdom, and not even so-called logical thinking. Even this is arrogance. Thought-arrogance.

Children live. And they do it often, without thinking. In any event, without second guessing. Whereas most of us think without living. This means digesting. Digesting the past. Children have no use for this. They digest the lived moment and then immediately forget it. This means they live the moment. Only children and sages are in a position to do that.

The rest of us store moments up, in order to live them later on. Therefore, in order not to live at all. Therefore . . . in order to digest. We are storers and digesters.

Even spirituality is part of digestion. Children need no spirituality. They are spiritual. They need no God. They are Gods themselves. They need no religion. They are religious without knowing it. For they are connected to themselves, and therefore ONE with power.

Most adults are warped children. Therefore, neither the one nor the other. They cannot be adults because they were never children. They cannot be children because they, as children, have to be adults. In order for them to be able to become adults, they must first be prepared to realize their childness.

The capacity for empathy is the capacity to feel "fully." This too I learned from children. I felt with them. And this allowed me, little by little, to feel myself. The child in me. Being a child means feeling, not thinking.

All of this probably sounds like a joke, or words spoken glibly. And yet, they express the entire gravity of life. This true gravity is like true wisdom: without hypocrisy and without sadism. That is to say: without moralism. And what is easy to say can be difficult to bear, as the late Wilhelm Busch himself has proven.

Children are the nation; its basis. The nation of children. It is, in many cultures, an oppressed, enslaved people. Like the peasants in old Russia. Like Dostoyevsky's poor. In a poetic fantasy I conjured up a children's state with a king who, when someone wanted him to take the children away, ate them all up and, with his immense, thick stomach, deserted his castle via a secret passage, in order to then, in a certain forest and in an act of rebirth, spit out his beloved, after which the little princes and princesses then ran off with their king, in order to be able to live out their love in happier realms.

This too I learned, namely, from children: to fantasize, and to realize the power of fantasizing. For what is paranoia to one person is bread to another. Dali once said that he differed from lunatics only inasmuch as he wasn't insane. And I differ from those who fantasize only inasmuch as I write as well as fantasize (...if I do write). And this is, once again, absolutely worth all of us learning: to unchain our imagination.