What babies and lovers teach us about God.
A friend, a sophisticated, urbane young woman, stopped me the other day with some exciting news. Exciting to her, at least—she spent ten minutes recreating for me the first steps of her year-old nephew. He could walk!
The child tottered like a drunk, and grasped couches and chairs to steady himself, but he could walk! His legs bent at the knees, his feet shot out like they were supposed to, and his body lurched in an unmistakably forward direction.
At the time I was caught up in her blow-by-blow account. But later, as I reflected on our conversation in the sober surroundings of my office, I realized how bizarre we would have sounded to an eavesdropper. With the utmost enthusiasm we had been marveling at a skill that had been mastered by all but a very few of the eight billion humans who have inhabited this planet. So he could walk; everybody can walk. What was the big deal?
I was struck by an irony: infancy provides a rare luxury, a quality of specialness, that nearly vanishes for the rest of life. After childhood we must ceaselessly scramble for attention. Students stay up past midnight cramming for tests, abuse their bodies in torturous athletic regimens, wear designer clothes, spend hours in front of mirrors—all for recognition. Adulthood merely institutionalizes the process: witness the mad scramble for achievement in the business world. We want to stand out, to be noticed.
Meanwhile, an infant need only take a few herky-jerky steps across a living room carpet and his parents and aunts coo about the triumph to all their friends.
The limelight of special attention may reignite with the later experience of romance. To a lover every mole is cute, every weird hobby a sign of lively curiosity, ...1
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