In Western countries we’ve all heard this expression many times, I’m sure. I wouldn’t be surprised to see versions from every culture in the world. Even the Bible has passages where Jesus tells people to come to him as a child does. So, what does this really mean?
Think about how a child sees the world. A baby is born with limited vision and not as yet fully formed brain function. An infant is incomplete, not yet ready for the world. Babies gradually develop the visual acuity and mental capacity to see the world around them and they do so before developing filters or impressions.
These filters and impressions allow people to restrict what they acknowledge in the world around them as well as assign meaning to those things they encounter in their environment. These restrictions and meanings are based on what is learned from family, friends, school, society, and culture around them. They discourage nonconformity to a mean of what is acceptable to hold as an opinion as well as what is allowable as behavior.
This mean or average has evolved over time and certainly within my own lifetime to accept some newer forms as well as to disallow some older, now less socially palatable ideas. In fact, many of the newer forms are considered non-conformity, but are clearly conforming to newer norms, fully accepted by the larger (louder) culture upon closer examination.
Over time, nearly all of us lose that sense of seeing things as a child does. We restrict our visual acuity (and other senses as well) and the meanings we are allowed to assign to things around us, or, more importantly, we are compelled to assign meaning and possibly, cause, to everything around us. We learn to rank things according to value in our minds and discard those below a certain threshold, thus putting on blinders to a large part of the world around us as well as the universe within our own minds.
A child hasn’t yet learned to do this. A child views the world differently in a couple of different ways. He sees the world with no filter, capturing everything in it’s raw essence just as nature presents it. He will watch leaves waving gently in the breeze, the lazy floating of dust moats in the sunlight, tiny ripples in a rain puddle, a squirrel gnawing blissfully on a hickory nut. A thousand things and more.
The filters and restricted impressions that we develop over time form a prison for our minds. They are heavy chains that weigh down our freest selves. Some filters and impressions help us to navigate through the world our society and culture has created, but this can be the greatest trap in that it tends to prevent us from seeing outside those bounds and exploring the world as it is, rather than how it is collectively decided that it has to be.
What is the benefit to viewing the world, then, as a child does? The chief of these as I see it is the ability to shrug off the shackles imposed by others so that our minds are freed to be as they were meant to be. Of course there is some minimal level of thought conformity necessity dictates in order for us to function in a world populated by other humans, let alone a myriad of other flora and fauna. Think obeying traffic laws or staying out of the bad side of town.
Keep in mind the concept we’re talking about isn’t immaturity. It’s appreciation. We’re not talking about acting like a child. We’re talking about opening your senses as a child naturally does, but retaining all of your experience and maturity. The idea is about perception and what you do with it.
Everyone remembers the elation of waking to a fresh new world as a child and seeing all the colors and light and hearing the sounds and feeling the air of discovery. That elation comes from being unshackled, being free from outwardly imposed impressions and just experiencing the world with no filters. This feeling isn’t gone. This ability hasn’t been excised from your mind. If you allow yourself the freedom of opening up to the world as it is, you can recapture this innate capacity and see that how you view the world is a choice. So, do as a child does: Open your eyes and open your mind to the wonders around you and see where that leads you today.