Wisdom is not always something that comes with learning and experience. If one pays attention, wise insight can be found in the clarity of innocent naiveté within the young. Such unbridled inate wisdom often presents keen insight. Just this week a clear example came through into my life.
The owner of a landscape company who did work for me stopped by for me to pay him one evening this week. He brought with him his son Hayden. When the father introduced his son, the boy was polite and shook hands without being prompted saying “it is nice to meet you”. I asked him how old he was and he proudly responded “I’m nine”. As Hayden spoke he made direct eye contact and it was easy to see from the sparkle in his eyes there was a lot going on in that brain of his.
As I stood in the kitchen writing a check and talking to his Dad, the young boy asked if it was ok if he looked around. I say yes and immediately afterwards “But don’t touch anything” came from his Father’s mouth. Within 30 seconds we heard statements like “Dad, he has real swords. Are they real? Where did you get them?” My reply included “most are replicas, two are antiques and I bought them at auctions and on-line”. In a voice that continued to be excited, he insisted that his Dad come look at the marvels the boy had found in my home.
Not much time passed and Hayden found his way to my library. Having finished writing the check his father and I joined him there. I am an avid reader in general and specifically a collector of old books. My total collection on the library shelves spans around 120 linear feet. So, there are a lot of books. His first question was if I had read them all. My reply was “I’ve read about 2/3’s of them. Some are reference books that I didn’t buy to read all the way through. The rest I hope to get around to reading sometime.”
The next question from the nine year old was “do you have any books on the Roman Empire?” His inquiry caught me off guard, as ancient history is not a subject I would have thought a youngster would be interested in. Hayden’s father chimed in to say his son had done a school project on the Romans near the end of the school year. He had helped his son who had become quite interested in the subject. We then looked for my antique two-volume set of history books on theRoman Empire.
The old books in my collection seemed to be of the greatest interest to this big eyed youngster. He wanted to know how old they were and I responded that most of the old books were all around 100-150 years old, but a couple of the small ones were closer to 200 years old. While none of the antique books are highly valuable, they are some of my prized possessions. As he touched one of the older ones I let him hold, his manner was even more delicate than the care I usually handle the books with. I was impressed with this obviously astute, smart and well-raised boy.
I asked Hayden what was the oldest thing he had ever touched, but he could not come up with a specific answer. Then I asked him if he’d like to touch something really old. He grinned and with a glint in his eyes he exclaimed “sure!” About a decade ago I made two trips to Peru to check out Machu Picchu, the Incas and previous South American civilizations. My traveling companion was my son who in wide-eyed teenaged mode marveled at what we experienced. During the second trip I made arrangements to legally bring back a few pieces of pre-Columbia pottery that I now was going to share with my young visitor.
While I never let it completely out of my hands due to its fragility, I pulled out the oldest piece I have and let Hayden run his hands all over it. He asked “what is it”. I told him it’s a bowl made by the Nazca and asked if he was aware of the figures of monkeys, scorpions and other animals made of arrangements of rocks visible from the air in the southern deserts of Peru. He just looked at me, but his father knew what I was talking about and said “we’ll look it up when we get home”. When I told my attentive visitor the bowl was around a thousand and four hundred years old he seemed impressed beyond his ability to comprehend.
It became apparent that Dad was ready to go home as he expressed his appreciation for me taking time with his son. I replied they would have to come back sometime when I have everything unpacked (I moved about 2 months ago and am far from having everything organized and out of boxes). Hayden smiled like I had given him a prize when he thanked me as his Father suggested to him. We shook hands and I told the young man it was a pleasure to meet him. His Dad beamed when I remarked how smart and well behaved his son was.
In the minutes after boy and Father departed, I wondered to myself briefly what the young man will grow up to do. Will he end up in a profession concerning his interest in old things or will he have a usual job but keep his keen desire to learn about the past. Which ever, I have faith he will do well in life if he keeps his love of learning.
Knowledge can be a blinder. Experience can confuse an issue. Known facts can block the truth. Familiarity can breed contempt. I admire Hayden, my young visitor this week. His wisdom based purely in awe and wonder was a vivid reminder to keep my eyes wide open and my spirit untied to experience new things. Thanks for good lesson Hayden!
A babe in the house is a well-spring of pleasure, a messenger of peace and love, a resting place for innocence on earth, a link between angels and men. Martin Farquhar Tupper