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In the book MEMORIES OF HEAVEN, a compilation of comments made by small children about what they remember from before they were born, Wayne Dyer and Dee Garnes (the authors) honor the wisdom babies apparently bring with them to this life…and later forget. The similarities between the stories told by children from different places and cultures give skeptics pause. In fact, when I subsequently asked my youngest granddaughter what she remembered, her impatient reply matched ones in the book. Dyer suggests that we ask questions to learn from children too young to have been indoctrinated with their parents’ opinions.
Yesterday, when my husband and I were listening to KCME on the radio, we heard “Prayer of the Children,” a musical piece written by Kurt Besto for the children of Bosnia during the genocides that occurred there. Besto himself spoke of the profound sadness and confusion the Bosnian children felt as they watched friends, family members, and neighbors killing one another. I thought of the children in the Nazi concentration camps, trying their best to be very, very good so they wouldn’t be murdered. I recalled seeing a recent news photo of a small Syrian child holding up her hands because she mistook the journalist’s camera for a gun. How do you explain blind hate to a child? The famous song from the musical SOUTH PACIFIC notes that “they have to be taught…to hate all the people their relatives hate.” How do you explain that’s it’s really all about who’s in control—who’s boss, that it’s about making “them” behave like we behave?
Last night I watched Anthony Bourdain visiting free-thinking Beirut, Lebanon on TV. The currently democratic city is crowded with people of many different faiths desperately clinging to the joy of living, although they readily admit they expect violence any day. Many are refugees from the terror of ISIS across the eastern border. All realize they cannot be safe. Children play in the sand beside the sea as children might on any beach anywhere. But these children live in the shadow of death—as do so many children around the world.
I don’t have a moral to this story, except to say I’m troubled by the fact that adults seem to wander so far from what they knew when they arrived in “mommy’s tummy.” I wonder what that baby in the manger would say about people who can turn their backs and feel good about it. Can the adults worldwide believe passionately enough in the value of goodness to be able to create a better world even when they’re afraid? Can they risk their lives for the future their children will inherit? Can they find answers that don’t require killing? Are there any?