"To stimulate life, leaving it then free to develop, to unfold, herein lies the first task of the educator." Maria Montessori
I read an article once in Monocle profiling an architect and his design for a Japanese kindergarten. Using unvarnished wood, he (figuratively) carved out an eminently childlike atmosphere with toddler-high windows, lots of cozy spaces to squeeze into and secret places to let one's imagination and curiosity grow, unhindered. And lots of sunlight. A place where kids are inspired to be themselves and learn—by osmosis first—what's important and interesting to them. This is not too different from the Montessori teaching method. I attended a little Christian Montessori school in Montrose, a small suburb of Los Angeles, from preschool through second grade. When we moved and I began going to public school, the wonder and beauty of the former childlike atmosphere was supplanted by the childish paradigms of status and peer pressure and introverted sensibility. It took all of my middle and high-school years (and then some) being homeschooled by my dad to unlearn these didactically unhealthy patterns and return to a knowledge of what learning truly is.
"That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love," (Ephesians 3:17, emphasis mine)
Jesus says that we "must become as little children" (see Matthew 18:3). The way of the childlike life is imbued with wonder, gratitude and dependence. Independence is a wonderful, heady thing and something all people should aspire to if they're capable of dealing with the "sea of reality". This is a loose definition of the "putting away" of "childish things" of which Paul spoke in 1 Corinthians (13:11, emphasis mine) The two states—childlikeness and childishness—are similar sounding but there's a world of distinction between them. We're more dependent upon God than we know. No matter how free and independent we seem to be.
"...for ye have taken away the key of knowledge..." (Luke 11:52)
Cultivating childlikeness, especially if we've become jaded and ungrateful, is easier than it might seem. Start where you are. Look at your unique fingerprints. One could go for days on the wonder inherent. As an aside, when I was a kid, around the time I learned of fingerprints, I had a dream that everyone in the world tied their shoes differently. That's right. Odd and silly, yet imaginative and childlike and dreamy. Another thing you can do is seek out spaces in which you can curl up—literally or figuratively—with a book or your journal and/or music. Invite God to join you as you re-create a childlike atmosphere wherever you may be. Look for those spaces as you walk to work. A bench in the park. A corner table at a cafe or restaurant. I guarantee you that at each instance you will create a pinprick of light in an otherwise dreary world of which only you and God are aware. Hold those. Treasure those moments and expand upon them. And as we begin (or continue) to understand our great dependence (see Acts 17:25) upon God and His willingness to meet our every "need" (see Philippians 4:19), we remain eternally youthful.
Of course, all of this can be gleaned and understood simply by observing children.
A haiku, for you:
Childlike or childish?
The difference, like day and night,
Will keep you grounded.
(Grounded in love.)