I once admitted to a friend that I am perpetually bewildered. “I don’t understand how people can be cruel,” I explained to her. “And why would someone wear a one hundred thousand dollar watch? Or own forty houses, yet happily outbid a young couple trying to buy their first? Why would someone undermine themselves by stealing or by degrading their mind with brain changing substances? These, and countless other questions about human nature, puzzle me.”
“I’m tired of being bewildered,” I said to my friend. “Before I die I want to understand everything.”
She replied: “Who dies knowing everything?”
My answer was immediate and it surprised us both: “A baby. A baby dies knowing everything.”
My answer was a little weird but it felt right. I pondered that answer for more than a year until one day I finally understood: a baby knows everything that matters. The type of car we drive doesn’t matter. Our favourite television show doesn’t matter. The latest fashion, our career, our garden… those things don’t matter.
Even our loved ones don’t matter. Yes, those things matter to us, but they don’t truly matter.
We could even do without our Albert Einsteins, Mahatma Gandis, Martin Luther Kings, Mother Theresas and Leonardo Da Vincis. The world would keep pottering along. It would just be a different world.
Only a baby knows what truly matters. What is that? What does a baby know that we don’t?
That it matters. It has a deep and unshakeable understanding that it matters. That it is everything.
A baby is home.
As the infant grows older it loses that deep instinctive knowledge and joins the rest of us in living in a world of butterflies and blowflies, teddy bears and grizzly bears, shiny buttons and the buttons at the fingertips of generals, acts of kindness and acts of bigotry, the hunger for adventure and the hunger for a meal.
We go through life doing our best, and making the best of it. We adopt philosophies to give purpose to our life and meaning to our suffering. We clasp tightly to the beliefs given to us by the society in which we live, no matter how absurd and disabling those paradigms may be.
As a result, we can end up wearing that one hundred thousand dollar watch, or finding ourselves in prison, or becoming a world record holder, or an artist, a poet, a CEO.
Our fight for status, for wealth, for pleasure, for respect, love, recognition… is just our blind and wayward search to find our way home, to feel that we matter. Not just to our loved ones, to our community, to our employer, but truly matter. We blunder about, trying desperately to rediscover that one thing we knew as a baby: that we are everything.
Religions get it. Religions tap into our deep, unending need to be everything again. Some religions promise a “homecoming”, while the Buddhists speak of the interconnectedness of all things. Being one with everything. You are the cosmos and the cosmos is you.
But… we cannot find our way home. We can never feel that we are everything again. That is the sole privilege of a baby. Yet it’s a journey each one of us must take. And along the way we will suffer. As we survive this life, this beautiful life, we will be wounded. All of us. In any of a myriad of ways. And still, we shall not find our way.
But if our search is to be futile, then let’s at least walk with one another. Let’s try to walk each other home, by showing patience. Understanding. Kindness. Let’s soothe each other’s pain.
Because… we… really are in this same boat, in this stormy sea, and we really do owe each other a terrible loyalty.
~ Mark Avery (Speaker & Philosopher)