My four-year-old son has an unquenchable zest for life that has long since eluded me. If I ever had such a thing. He’s so easily excited. Everything is a cause for sudden celebration. Everything.
“Look! It’s the moon!”
“Look at that airplane!”
“Daddy! I’m racing!”
“That car looks like Lightning McQueen!”
“The sun is awake!”
It’s as if he’s won the lottery with every new experience. He has that level of excitement.
Sometimes I wonder how he can get so excited about things he’s seen or done a million times. Other times it melts my heart and makes me smile because it is so utterly adorable. I love how animated he gets.
It occurred to me that my son can feel this way because he still has his innocence. He does not know the world for what it truly is. He does not know that even on the sunniest day, the world is as dark as a black hole. He has not encountered evil. He doesn’t see the headlines or what passes for news these days. He’s never had his heart crushed like ice in a blender. He’s never known the shame of defeat or the guilt of a mistake hurting someone he loves. He’s never had the reaper snatch a loved one from his grasp.
I don’t remember a time in my life when everything was awesome. I can’t relate to my son’s perpetual excitement. All I know is that his ability to consistently find something to get pumped up about makes me happy. He makes me laugh. It also makes me long for a chance to see the world through his eyes.
Imagine it. Had I his innocence I’d see a woman who loves unconditionally instead of one who does as she pleases no matter who it hurts. Had I his innocence I’d see an easy-going man with an unfading smile instead of a petty, jealous one whose lust for revenge hurt me on more than one occasion. Had I his innocence I’d view every sunrise as an opportunity to live instead of another day filled with dreadful banalities and the shackles of responsibility.
I would love to be ignorant of hatred. I would love to see the best in everyone. I would love to see all the colors instead of this monochrome hell. I would love for every little thing to excite me so much that I ran around the living room voicing my excitement loudly and proudly.
But I can’t.
I have seen the worst in too many people. I have seen how horribly we treat each other. I have been both the recipient and committer of evil deeds. I see how inhumanity has saturated every aspect of our society like a rabid cancer. I see hatred. I see intolerance. I see pain. I see suffering. I see darkness conquering light.
While on one hand I wish to view the world through the lens of his innocence, on the other it breaks my heart to know that one day my son will have it stolen from him. A young woman may break his heart. He’ll lose someone he loves. A friend will betray him. He’ll be lied to. He’ll be abused. I may, in my conviction as a father, do something that hurts him. The world may be torn apart by war. He’ll see the world for what it is: an unforgiving, unfair cesspool of sin and debauchery.
I envy my son his innocence, and hope he can cling to some piece of it even after the world reveals itself to him. I hope that life doesn’t leave him bitter and jaded like me. I hope that, even occasionally, he’ll be able to view life through the eyes of a child.