Peace Is Child’s Play

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Next week I came into the counselor’s office and she was crying.  Jose wasn’t at school. She told me that in the previous week Jose’s mother remarried and her new husband gave her a choice—husband or Jose. She choose husband. This meant that Jose had to go to foster care. At that time in California because I was part of Jose’s life before foster care I could not be part of his life in foster care. We couldn’t have any contact with each other. The same was true for his counselor. She didn’t know where he was now going to school.

She asked, “Why do you do this? You know what the system does to these kids.”

“I know. But now Jose knows where real power comes from, his heart and not his gun. I can’t change Joses’s world but I can give him choices he didn’t know he had.”

This article began with the absurd idea that peace is child’s play. But is it so absurd? Despite all evasions, the faces of God stare one in the face. We do not need to understand, we must only look. There have been times when before my eyes the world changed and I saw the face of God in my playmates—in Lindsay, a blind girl with cerebral palsy, in the eye of Holly, a dolphin, in the blinding fierceness of Nala, a lioness, in the stunning gaze of a wolf named Sybil, in Katie’s soft smile, in Paul’s fierce courage, in Danny’s shimmering joy. When we see a face of God in someone we see him or her “through and through.” We see so deeply that we feel our belonging with them. These are experiences I cannot prove; I cannot even explain them. But everything I know as a human being tells me that they are real. I cannot fail to entertain a central thought: if ever we are to attain a final theory of life on earth we will have to see that we are all expressions of a deeper order of belonging. We know that, “the importance and efficacy of the attitude of lovingkindness toward other human beings has now been established from the scientific viewpoint.&sup6

My hope is kindled not by the wishful thinking of childish dreams, nor by science but by the fierce determination of children who have the courage to live the human dream of peace. Here are statements of five such children who confirm this dream. Anna, age 10 writes, “Play is being able to tell the world that you don’t like what it is doing to you, and not harming anyone while you do it.”  Elijah, age 6, asks his teacher, “Can we practice playing? Because if we practice we will get good at it and learn how not to hurt others and how not to get hurt .” After a play session with me an eight year old boy with autism comments, “I wish I had a normal life. I wish I had a normal life. [Sigh!] This play is my reminder of a normal life.” J.D., a four and a half year old boy in Head Start says following a play session, “Nothing can get better than this.”  Five year old Travis looks up at his mother during our play and smiles, “Look Mother, I’m falling in love.”

These children do not write from the perspective of one who dreams about something that will happen. They write from the experience of having lived what they write about, recognizable in their quality of aliveness. It is in their simple, earthy, pragmatic grace that we find original play.

I began life as a child in quest of a man and somewhere along the way I have become a man in search of a child. Some thirty years ago, I thought I was traveling from one point to another and I walked off the map encountering a whole new world and exploring a great mystery within my own spirit. Never has it been so important if I am not to fail in the purpose for which my life is created, to begin an ancient quest of seeking to reinterpret Creation’s message.  I often feel like the 17th. Century Japanese poet, Matsuo Basho who likened himself to “a travel-worn satchel,” a creased leathery bag of bones so thinned by heat, wind and rain that it tumbles along the roads as helplessly as the clouds scud across the sky.  The deepest pattern in life, unalterable and irrevocable, this adventure began in childhood, the way of first and last resort, when I am sure of nothing and curious about everything.

Behind it all is surely an idea so simple, so beautiful, so compelling that once seen we look at each other and wonder how could it have been otherwise and how did we miss it in the first place. To see a face of God is to see things as they really are. As always this new meaning has to be lived before it can be known. So here it is, irrevocable and unalterable—original play is a pact with Creation, a secret sympathy, hidden in the profusion and diversity of life, and so pledged to reproduce its underlying connective pattern, on however small a scale so that the original design is there for the spirit to discover and follow. Such is the preamble of life, a immutable provision of belonging that Creation is a play of immense diversity to which you and I and even the immense star spray we call the Milky Way bears witness.

Play as if life depends upon it—it does.

1. Wiesel, Elie. Children, 1990,p.27
2. van de Post,1982,p.351
3. Norris, 1996, p.xx
4. Kavanaugh & Rodriguez, 1976, p.141
5. Mandela, Nelson. Introduction. Paul Alberts. Some Evidence of Things Seen. Johannesburg: Open Hand Trust, 1997, p.19
6. The Dalai Lama. Quoted in Gentle Bridges. Jeremy Hayward & Francisco J. Varela (eds.) Boston: Shambhala, 1992, p. 254

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I can’t believe people tie children up in bags to throw out with the trash. That is the single most heartbreaking thing I’ve read in a very long time.

This is the most moving and magical article! I’m sitting here in work trying not to just break down crying..  Wow..

Thanks so much for posting this. I’m forwarding the link.

Posted by Chandira  on  10/08  at  08:48 AM
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