By: Kyle Elden
This evening my six year old daughter Stella and myself had a delightfully chaotic dinner over at a friend’s house – it was buzzing with the noise and laughter of four children, three adults and a dog. Stella and her little companion played together dressing up in fancy gowns and stuffing billions of dollar bills in a leopard purse, and they were completely rich and full of joy. The older eleven year old girl helped out with the toddler and helped clear the table, helped the little girls pick up their mess when it was time for us to go home, somewhat practicing to be an adult. All this while my friend and I caught up on life discussing the joys and stressors, hopes and disappointments we face as adults. I commented on how great the eleven year old was, so helpful – joked that I could use one of those around to help out with Stella. My friend whispered about how she (the eleven year old) suddenly has begun transitioning from “playing” and we both lamented that time in life when we naturally lose the interest and pull we once had to simply just play, be free spirited, present, and joyful. It reminded me of this poem from Marcus Borg’s book “The Heart of Christianity” so upon coming home and reading a bedtime story to my own little one and tucking her into bed, I had to scurry and find this poem that struck me with such intensity and truth when I first read it. In Borg’s book he introduces this poem as a way to describe how we all tend to journey through life coming away from God almost as a right of passage. He discusses that we come from God and as children we simply, without a doubt, know who we are (as children of God) and are plugged into God, really without much effort. And then we go through a forgetting…..some of us never coming back into relationship, engagement, connection with God again. But it is a pilgrimage, if we so venture toward God again, to come back to that knowing, that deep and profound relationship with God. We move through troubles, trials, tribulations, and triumphs. It takes effort and faith. It takes a new kind of knowledge and understanding to cut through all the layers of our egos and culture and call to live unauthentic lives to get back to the core of who we truly are. This poem, “On Turning Ten” by: Billy Collins, describes this transition so well. However, it ends with a very bleak and desolate tone that leaves me feeling rather hopeless. For myself I know that when I'm in a place that's disconnected from God, this is what life feels like and looks like. And, it pretty much sucks. I think it’s important to acknowledge this journey we all most certainly go through, but to also recognize that it’s not the whole story – for once we remember who we are and where we come from, as adults, we can understand that when we “fall upon the sidewalks of life” we both bleed and shine, all at the same time…..
On Turning Ten
By: Billy Collins
The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.
You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.
But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.
This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.
It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.