Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Bliss of Pure Sensation

As some of you may know, I’m expecting my third son to be born shortly (10 more days!). Having children has both many challenges and benefits, both of which are too extensive to even begin listing here, but I was reminded of perhaps one of the best benefits when I read Eliza Clark’s “Seeing the World Through Our Children’s Eyes” essay. In this post, she ponders what it’s like to be a new child, and reminds us that although life as a parent may seem routine to us, to kids “each new day, however similar in structure to the one that came before, is full of newness and exploration. There are new sounds, new sights, new faces, and new stories to take in; there is the taste of a new meal or play with a new friend to discover, and so on.”

She continues by quoting psychology professor Alison Gopnik (writing in The Philosophical Baby) about this state of mind as analogous to travel, as a “…return to the wide-ranging curiosity of childhood… our attention and awareness are enhanced, not shut down. Life seems more vivid, even painfully so at times.” It's an apt metaphor given all of the fun observations and explorations kids make about the most mundane of tasks (which she puts as the “bliss of pure sensation.")

Personally, this is what I mean when I say that having kids has made me a better person. Their playful attitude towards all aspects of life – even that I used to consider boring or routine – is infectious, and has inspired me to treat tasks that I dread (waiting in lines, shopping, etc.) as opportunities to have fun. There are limits to this mindset, of course – Clark reminds us that “someone needs to look both ways when crossing the street” – but being reminded to tune into the joy in the everyday moment is a gift that my kids have given me.

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