Listen to the children . . .
I was about 11 years old, and had no fear of asking questions from my brother, sisters and parents, and had not yet learned they usually ignored me for asking such ‘dumb’ ones.
One evening my sisters and I were ‘doing the dishes’ that had been used to prepare and serve the evening’s meal. Yeah, I was a child and can still see me there in the southwest corner of the room, and asking my question.
The answer I sought was that I realized everything had a source. The wooden boards for the cupboard, chairs, table and house, had all come from trees which had been felled, sawed into boards and then some man, like my Dad who was a carpenter, had made those things from that wood.
I knew that all metal things came from ore which was taken from the earth and smelted (I learned that from the old Murray Smelter which loomed in our lives and where neighbor men worked). I knew glass came from some kind of sand. Ice from water, and water from the ocean, rivers and rain.
Coal which heated our home and cooked our meals came from old, old trees, for Dad had even shown me the pattern of leaves on those lumps of coal, which, eons before had, under pressure. become that coal. Oh, how I wish Dad had saved at least one or two of such wonders, that I still recall seeing and touching. But we needed the coal to cook our dinner..
I saw our food growing from the earth, meat from animals, our clothes from cotton grown in our Southern States, wool from sheep, milk from cows, eggs from hens, and on, and on. Those Books of Knowledge that Dad had bought for us, and I’d read as I laid on my belly on the floor, had taught me much.
But then I came to a wall. Yeah, and beyond that wall, I could go no further, and so I asked my question on that long ago afternoon. What was the source of the earth I walked upon. Where did water come from? The first seeds? Cows? Pigs? Cotton plants? The first flame to light our fires? In other words, Ethel needed to know, “What was the Basic Source of all I looked upon? And used?”
No one heard me, or if they did, they ignored my question, or maybe I phrased it poorly? And I kept wondering, not all the time, for I was a kid, growing up, getting along with my parents, school and friends. All that stuff.
So I grew up and in doing so found lots of my questions didn’t ‘fit’ well with my Teachers, and in some way I knew they were unwelcome, but if I didn’t ask, how could I ever know? Who else could I ask? In church I asked questions that caused Mom and Dad to be asked where I got all that stuff. Yeah, life is confusing for kids. And their parents.
Like so many others, I floundered, rebelled and became a great sorrow to my mother with my ‘odd ‘ questions and differences and when I was 18 I finally quit trying and pretty well went out on my own.
I read lots of books, married, had sons, home and family. Sent my sons to the same schools and church that I had attended, because I also wanted them to have a ‘good’ training of right and wrong. And, so it went.
But I also was determined never to lie and when my sons asked if I believed this and that, or such and such, I had to be honest and answered, truthfully, that I didn’t know, and that everyone had to figure out those answers for themselves, as I had. And the questioners were content.
Anyway my reading was endless and then I found the teaching of the Far East and the words resonated within me; and changed my life. They spoke of a Source and I knew the wonderful Zen Eight Fold Path contained words I could relate to and strive to follow forever or wherever. I have never joined any Teaching and am not religious but I do my best to lead a deeply spiritual life.
Any way one day when I was 90 years old and reading and meditating on the Source of All, I was suddenly that child again, in the old kitchen wiping the dinner dishes and recalled my old question. Of course I had found the answer years before, but for some reason there was that one moment when I was the child again, seeking answers, and realized that children’s questions can be far deeper than they seem.
Perhaps we should be more attentive to their words, for they haven’t been too long apart from The Source Itself.