Every now and then I think about what it was like being a child. Maybe I do that more than I use to. The consequences of watching a child, my child, grow up in front of me. I watch him play, and run, and use his imagination to make worlds where before there were none. As I watch him memories fill my mind. These memories have faded and yellowed as if they were photographs of a long ago time, but they are mine, and they are of me as I once was.
I watch my boy play. He runs in the grass with his eyes closed and his head lifted toward the sun. Running without any care for what is in front of him. A gentle smile accompanies what to me is an angelic glow.
He goes into his bed proclaiming to all who will listen that it is not a bed, but a “choo choo train.” Guests come into the house and they have to go see his train. I don’t quite understand how he came to believe it is a train, because I can’t see it. Maybe I’m too old, too set in my ways, or whatever else.
But again, my memories remind me that once I could create worlds out of nothing. Universes that existed only in my mind, or maybe in my soul, or some other place within us that we do not know. I remember couches that became submarines and exploring the ocean floor. The memories are a little dated, but if I sit with them for a moment I can still recall seeing the most incredible animals from those couches.
I recall being a bit older, at that age when we begin to tell children that their imaginations cannot run wild. “There is a real world out there, and you can’t be lost in your daydreams.” I remember running through a field in the playground at my elementary school. I ran alone, but in my mind I was running with a full army into some battle of huge proportions. Some older kid laughed at me. Like any child I tried to stop pretending, because no one wants to be ridiculed. After trying for a while eventually I succeeded. I stifled my imagination, if not all the way, at least enough of the way to keep the laughter at bay.
Then soon we are all in the real world, whatever that is, and we accept it. This is what is and it must be. Yet there is my son and he reminds me that there is more, he can see and I cannot.
I recall working in the hospital and meeting an older man. “His mind isn’t all there,” I was told. He enjoyed having conversations, but since his mind wasn’t all there they were interesting. He lived in a place outside the real world, but still within it. Once I walked in to say hello and his head was facing the window. The sun’s light was streaming in. His eyes were closed and there was a certain smile on his face I couldn’t understand. In hindsight it seems similar to my son’s smile as he runs across the grass with his eyes closed and facing the sun.
I said hello and he opened his eyes. While I do not recall the details of our conversation, most of it dealt with things that may not have been real, but were nevertheless real to him. He spoke of dreams, and more than once mentioned sailing across the world.
Once long ago the prophet Joel wrote, “Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.” While that means something particular in its context, as I think of my son and that older gentleman I cannot help wondering if those who are neither old nor young are left out of dreams and visions because for us the world is only real. We do not see choo choo trains where there are none, nor dream of sailing around the world when we know we won’t.
Neither do we dare to look at all that is wrong and evil and believe that there is something more to be had. The world is what it is, but it seems the young and old know better. They know there are always reasons to look toward the sun with eyes closed and smile. They know this because if a better world can still exist in our dreams and visions, by God’s grace maybe one day they exist for real, too.