kids see lots if you ask me

4 September 2009

A few weeks ago I started reading May Sarton’s journal, “The House by the Sea.”  And then I stopped because work happened.  Today I picked her up again today and came across this passage:

“I do not believe that keeping a journal is for the young.  There is always the danger of bending over oneself like Narcissus and drowning in self indulgence.  If a journal is to have any value either for the writer or any potential reader, the writer must be able to be objective about what he [sic] experiences on the pulse.  For the whole point of a journal is this seizing events on the wing.  Yet the substance will come not from narration but from the examination of experience, and an attempt, at least, to reduce it to essence.  Secondly – and this is curious – what delights the reader in a journal is often minute particulars.  Very few young people observe anything except themselves very closely.  Then the context – by that I mean all that one brings to an experience of reading and thinking and feeling – is apt to be thin for the young.  And to get to the nub, I guess what I am suggesting is that rarely is there enough of a self there.”

I heartily agree and heartily disagree with Sarton’s ideas.  Yes, I too believe the job of the journal is not merely that of a vehicle for self absorption.  Its job is to facilitate seeing – both behind and beyond the end of one’s nose.  I truly believe that if you spend time writing what YOU see, you become more compassionate and appreciative of the world you find.  I believe, as Sarton does, the journal is for “siezing events on the wing” and in doing so, we look for the essence and thus the beauty in experience.

I don’t share, however, her idea that the young are not capable of seeing beyond the ends of their collective noses.  I have encouraged my own daughters to journal from the time they could express themselves with a pen, and I have done same with my nieces and nephews.  And each one of them exhibits a large and original self as it exists within the big ol’ world.  And each one of them finds appreciation in those “minute particulars” as Sarton calls them. 

Yes – I do believe that with each year on the planet we grow more wise and more appreciative of the small gifts.  But the gifts are not just available to the mature.  Everyone’s story has value – and every child and young person is as deep as a well if we ask them to be. 

And we would all be well served to remind ourselves of the clarity of vision we once had – which would only strengthen the depth of the knowledge and joy we continue to collect as we walk along this life’s journey.  Sure – many youth and young adults are focused on the self.  That’s because they are looking hard to find that self!  Maybe it’s our job to foster that seeking rather than tell them there isn’t anything worth finding until they have been graced with the gift of years.  See, that’s the thing about years – each one builds on the last.  Each story is a chapter.  And the early chapters are setting the stage for all things new and innovative. 

Give a kid a journal today.  Invite them to “sieze those events on the wing” and search for the essence in each experience.  Because from my experience, they’re really good at it.

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