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The Child As An Ideal
Source: Power Through Repose
WHILE the path of progress in the gaining of repose could not be
traced thus far without reference to the freedom of a baby, a fuller
consideration of what we may learn from this source must be of great
use to us.
The peace and freshness of a little baby are truly beautiful, but
are rarely appreciated. Few of us have peace enough in ourselves to
respond to these charms. It is like playing the softest melody upon
a harp to those whose ears have long been closed.
Let us halt, and watch, and listen, and see what we shall gain!
Throughout the muscular system of a normal, new-born baby it is
impossible to find any waste of force. An apparent waste will, upon
examination, prove itself otherwise. Its cry will at first seem to
cause contractions of the face; but the absolute removal of all
traces of contraction as the cry ceases, and a careful watching of
the act itself, show it to be merely an exaggeration of muscular
action, not a permanent contraction. Each muscle is balanced by an
opposing one; in fact, the whole thing is only a very even
stretching of the face, and, undoubtedly, has a purpose to
Examine a baby's bed, and see how distinctly it bears the impression
of an absolute giving up of weight and power. They actually _do_
that which we only theorize about, and from them we may learn it
all, if we will.
A babe in its bath gives us another fine opportunity for learning to
be simple and free. It yields to the soft pressure of the water with
a repose which is deeply expressive of gratitude; while we, in our
clumsy departures from Nature's state, often resist with such
intensity as not to know--in circumstances just as simply useful to
us--that we have anything for which to be grateful.
In each new experience we find it the same, the healthy baby yields,
_lets himself go,_ with an case which must double his chances for
comfort. Could we but learn to do so, our lives would lengthen, and
our joys and usefulness strengthen in exact proportion.
All through the age of unconsciousness, this physical freedom is
maintained even where the mental attitude is not free. Baby wrath is
as free and economical of physical force as are the winsome moods,
and this until the personality has developed to some extent,--that
is, _until the child reflects the contractions of those around him._
It expends itself in well-balanced muscular exercise, one set of
muscles resting fully in their moment of non-use, while another set
takes up the battle. At times it will seem that all wage war
together; if so, the rest is equal to the action.
It is not the purpose of this chapter to recommend anger, even of
the most approved sort; but if we will express the emotion at all,
let us do it as well as we did in our infancy!
Channels so free as this would necessitate, would lessen our
temptations to such expression; we, with mature intellects, would
see it for what it is, and the next generation of babies would less
often exercise their wonderfully balanced little bodies in such an
Note the perfect openness of a baby throat as the child coos out his
expression of happiness. Could anything be more free, more like the
song of a bird in its obedience to natural laws? Alas, for how much
must we answer that these throats are so soon contracted, the tones
changed to so high a pitch, the voice becoming so shrill and harsh!
Can we not open our throats and become as these little children?
The same _openness_ in the infant organism is the child's protection
in many dangers. Falls that would result in breaks, strains, or
sprains in us, leave the baby entirely whole save in its "feelings,"
and often there, too, if the child has been kept in the true state
Watch a baby take its food, and contrast it with our own ways of
eating. The baby draws it in slowly and evenly, with a quiet rhythm
which is in exact accord with the rhythmic action of its digestive
organs. You feel each swallow taken in the best way for repair, and
for this reason it seems sometimes as if one could see a baby grow
while feeding. There cannot be a lovelier glimpse of innocent
physical repose than the little respites from the fatigue of feeding
which a baby often takes. His face moist, with open pores, serene
and satisfied, he views the hurry about him as an interesting phase
of harmless madness. He is entirely outside of it until
self-consciousness is quite developed.
The sleep of a little child is another opportunity for us to learn
what we need. Every muscle free, every burden dropped, each breath
carries away the waste, and fills its place with the needed
substance of increasing growth and power.
In play, we find the same freedom. When one idea is being executed,
every other is excluded. They do not think _dolls_ while they roll
They do not think of work while they play. Examine and see how we do
both. The baby of one year, sitting on the shore burying his fat
hand in the soft warm sand, is for the time being alive _only_ to
its warmth and softness, with a dim consciousness of the air and
color about him. If we could engross ourselves as fully and with as
simple a pleasure, we should know far more of the possible power of
our minds for both work and rest.
It is interesting to watch normal children in these concentrations,
because from their habits we may learn so much which may improve our
own sadly different manner of living. It is also interesting but
pathetic to see the child gradually leaving them as he approaches
boyhood, and to trace our part in leading him away from the true
The baby's perfect placidity, caused by mental and bodily freedom,
is disturbed at a very early age by those who should be his true
guides. It would be impossible to say when the first wrong
impression is made, but it is so early that a true statement of the
time could only be accepted from scientific men. For mothers and
fathers have often so dulled their own sensitiveness, that they are
powerless to recognize the needs of their children, and their
impressions are, in consequence, untrustworthy.
At the time the pangs of teething begin, it is the same. The healthy
child left to itself would wince occasionally at the slight pricking
pain, and then turn its entire attention elsewhere, and thus become
refreshed for the next trial. But under the adult influence the
agony of the first little prick is often magnified until the result
is a cross, tired baby, already removed several degrees from the
beautiful state of peace and freedom in which Nature placed him
under our care.
The bodily freedom of little children is the foundation of a most
beautiful mental freedom, which cannot be wholly destroyed by us.
This is plainly shown by the childlike trust which they display in
all the affairs of life, and also in their exquisite responsiveness
to the spiritual truths which are taught to them. The very
expression of face of a little child as it is led by the hand is a
lesson to us upon which pages might be written.
Had we the same spirit dwelling in us, we more often should feel
ourselves led "beside the still waters," and made "to lie down in
green pastures." We should grow faster spiritually, because we
should not make conflicts for ourselves, but should meet with the
Lord's quiet strength whatever we had to pass through.
Let us learn of these little ones, and help them to hold fast to
that which they teach us. Let us remember that the natural and the
ideal are truly one, and endeavor to reach the latter by means of
When through hereditary tendency our little child is not
ideal,--that is, natural,--let us with all the more earnestness
learn to be quiet ourselves that we may lead him to it, and thus
open the channels of health and strength.
Next: Training For Rest
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