A young man set out to walk upon a path. While on the path, he encountered other walkers. One was an elderly gentleman who required the aid of walking sticks in order to make the walk easier on his aging body. Another was a young woman who walked with an animal companion for comfort and for safety. Yet another was a pair of lovers in their middle age, holding hands and smiling gently as they remembered how it felt to be young and imagined how it would feel to be old. All of the walkers came from different regions, spoke in different tongues, believed in different gods, and devoted their respective lives to different causes. They each experienced the path in a different way, at times even walking in opposing directions.
And yet, they all walked the same path.
I was listening the TED Radio hour today (as I’ve become accustomed to do lately while attempting to get my ass into shape on runs). This particular episode was called “Unstoppable Learning” and featured a discussion with a Psychologist named Alison Gopnick who introduced herself by saying “I study babies and young children and what they can tell us what it means to be human. After all, we’re just babies and young children that have been around a little bit longer”. I was fascinated to hear Dr. Gopnick describe her research, which suggests that the minds of babies are like the minds of “the most brilliant scientists”. It reminded me of some reading I did back in undergrad about the activity in a young child’s brain and how they are capable of more learning at that stage than any other but do not yet have the adaptive skills to communicate it in a way that we as adults are able to understand. I was most fascinated when Dr. Gopnick started to talk about an experiment she ran in which she presented a baby with crackers and broccoli. She made facial expressions and used vocal inflections to communicate a distaste for crackers and a preference for broccoli. When she asked the baby to share with her, to give her some of what she liked, he gave her broccoli. Dr. Gopnick stated that this shows the child going beyond empathy; it suggests a journey into altruism in which the child is actually taking the perspective of another person into consideration.
At the end of this particular interview, Dr. Gopnick said something that really hit me, “if what we want is to have open-mindedness, open learning, imagination, creativity, innovation, maybe at least some of the time, we should be getting the adults to start thinking more like children”.
What was it that Jesus said about letting the little children come to him? Only children can enter the kingdom of heaven?
What if heaven was when we all saw the world like little kids, without the rigid boundaries that we have set up for ourselves? What if we could truly understand other people’s perspectives? Lion laying down with a lamb? What if heaven could happen now?