recess radio program

12/30/05
"By and By"
    by John Cech

It's the end of the year this weekend, and a watchful media will tell (and show) us the child who was born first in the new year. What a distinction for this baby, in so many ways. For the child, symbolically and literally, always represents the future, and future possibilities -- whether in society at large or within ourselves. The noted psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, went even further when he argued that the symbolic figure of the child "unites the opposites; [is] a mediator, bringer of healing . . . one who makes whole."

Yet in our culture, we don't usually think of children in reality, or the child spirit in our own psyches, in such an exalted way -- at least not since Shirley Temple turned the American child into a transcendent national presence in the 1930s, offering in film after film a spirit of hope and healing for a nation deeply wounded and concerned about its future. Our own kids today, when we see them in public forms (usually on TV), are more often than not associated with commercial interests, or else with some sad news story about abuse, neglect, or violence. And though many adults dress like children and continue to practice the ego-centric, tantrum-throwing manners of their five-year-old selves, one of the more insulting things you can say to an adult is that they are "childish."

Too often childhood is seen as a burden, a cost, a weakness, a vulnerability. Jung again gives us something to reflect on here. He was sorting out this paradox in our feelings about the child when he wrote that "the 'child' is all that is abandoned and exposed and at the same time divinely powerful; the insignificant, dubious beginning, and the triumphal end. The 'eternal child' in mankind is an indescribable experience, an incongruity, a handicap, and a divine prerogative; an imponderable that determines the ultimate worth or worthlessness of a personality." What he was saying, of course, was: we must value, and care for, and honor that child -- in society and in ourselves -- if we wish to have a new year, and a future worth celebrating.

Copyright 2005 John Cech

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Thursday, 01-Dec-2005 15:07:16 EST


"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."