Saturday, December 1, 2012
I was just looking at some photographs of my granddaughter, which my daughter posted on Facebook. Scarlett is three months old, but I have yet to see her in person. I will have that opportunity when I return to Australia in two or three weeks time. I will actually get to hold her (and, no doubt, change some nappies!). It will also be the first time that I have spent Christmas with my family (meaning my own children and their families) in I don’t know how many years. After three years away, and having spent that time basically living in a furnished box in Lausanne, I have a feeling that this Christmas will be a very special one. And yes, I guess I am getting a little emotional and sentimental in my old age. This is a time of enormous change, for all of us. Me, changing countries again, and jobs. My daughter, with a new baby. My son and his young wife, and their recent move to New Zealand.
Of course, looking at young Scarlett, it is impossible not to think about her future, and the future of this world into which she is born. I don’t exactly believe in the innocence of children. I think we all come into the world with a very self-centred streak, which is necessary for survival. But looking at her smile I see, not innocence, but naturalness (perhaps that is the same thing?). There is a natural quality to life at that age, before we dress it up in all kinds of social conventions. Scarlett can laugh, cry, fart, burp, fill her nappy, with equal ease, without being at all embarrassed or self-conscious about those behaviours. Of course, we need social conventions. I don’t really want to be in an elevator when someone else farts. But looking at Scarlett, it is good to be reminded that there is a natural animality underlying all of our social conventions, and that this is not a bad thing – certainly not bad in the moral sense; just not always appropriate or convenient if we are to live together in this world. Let’s not confuse social conventions with morality.
The years ahead will not be easy for Scarlett. But when have they ever been? I have now reached the status of an Elder in society. At least, I would have done so in some societies – I’m not too sure about this one. I don’t feel very clever or very wise – which is, perhaps, the first step towards wisdom. But maybe, just maybe, I have learned a few things along the way, which Scarlett can take great delight, as she grows, in proving wrong.