“……..A prescription for helping to keep the Joyful Child alive ? Go and read the Harry Potter books…….. !……”
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Leaving the Otherworld – and meeting Saturn
The advance through adulthood alters one’s perception of what it is to be young. Having been scarred by life as we all are, watching a pre-school child absorbed in play is delightful, but also poignant. Delightful because it demonstrates clearly that there is another world than the one we usually inhabit which is full of deadlines, duties and demands.
This Otherworld is full of goblins and fire engines, magic bubbles and imaginary friends, bright green tigers who speak, and amenable adults happy to give you the keys to the scary castle, where you can spend days of adventure without anyone telling you that it’s impossible for giants to keep a special pocket full of ice cream that never melts, just waiting for you to come and eat it.
Poignant because we wonder, looking at this absorbed child, how s/he will cope with an adult world whose entry tariff is extracted from the struggle between the fantasy world of childhood where anything is possible, and the reality testing which takes place as we grow and confront the limits which life sets for us.
The 29-30 year Saturn Cycle offers a helpful containing context within which to explore how the Joyful Child within us fares as life’s journey unfolds. There is a case to be made for not starting children at school until the first square of the cycle, at 7-8 years. Five or six, the common age, seems too early to remove children from the Otherworld of play and unbounded imagination. Shakespeare vividly expressed the average child’s response to being dragged from the Otherworld :
“And then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel,
And shining morning face, creeping like a snail
Unwillingly to school.” (ii)
If we did start children at the later age of seven or eight, socially disruptive though that would be in many ways, perhaps it would give more time for the Joyful Child’s domain to become established. Thus it might be easier for the growing person to retain contact with the Otherworld as a source of inspiration throughout life.
As we step across the boundary of family from the time of starting school at age five, through to the first Saturn square at 7/8 years of age, the Joyful Child begins to hide; its energy becomes redirected as we become more aware of ourselves in relation to what the outer world expects. By and large, that outer world is more interested in us being able to tie our shoelaces, read, tell the time, and be truthful, than it is in knowing what a wonderful chat we had in Chinese last night with the bright green tiger who sleeps under our bed.
The first Saturn opposition at 14/ 15 years is the point where we take bigger steps out of family, begin to challenge parental authority, and move towards greater identification with the peer group. The need to play and daydream which is fundamental to the Joyful Child’s world, and the creative energy fuelling these activities, gets sublimated further at this point.
It channels into the pursuit of achievement of an academic or vocational nature, and exploration of the exciting, troubling world of relationship and emerging sexuality as bodily changes propel the young person towards physical adulthood. The Joyful Child’s impetus towards discovery and exploration of the new, engages in a complex dance with the tough realities also emerging. Too much time spent playing, not enough on taking responsibility, can have a high emotional cost, eg exam failure or unwanted pregnancy.
The waning square at 21/2 years brings with it the world’s expectation that we should begin to assume adult responsibility, get a job if we’ve been studying for years – get serious. Many people marry or enter into long-term partnerships at this stage, perhaps out of unconscious fear of facing the adult world and its responsibilities alone.
I have gained the impression from my varied professional work with people of differing ages over a long period of time, that part of the vulnerability of this life stage comes from a realisation that childhood is, indeed, over.
Recently I came across a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings from a column I wrote in my early twenties. In it was a piece called “Thoughts on Childhood” which supports the view just expressed :
“ I am close enough to childhood for my memories still to be clear and reasonably untainted by the rosy hues of nostalgia, although I realise now that as soon as we have ceased to be children, the world of childhood becomes a closed world to us, one which we can never recapture except through flashes of memory and watching our own children grow up. As adults, no matter how hard we wish to recapture the feeling of childhood, we must always remain
‘ watchers by the threshold.’ ” (iii)
This is a critical age. Engaging with the world as it actually is, challenges the emerging individual’s capacity to retain that spark of vital creative energy which ensures that the Joyful Child is not stifled: it has been curbed by now, knows that much of the time it’s not safe to be too overt.
But it is important that the rechannelled energy continues to flow. It can express itself in passionate commitment to a career, as opposed to working purely to provide life’s necessities. It can manifest through joy in good friends, or absorbing hobbies and interests outwith work. For some people, early parenthood brings, along with responsibility, the opportunity to view the world again through the eyes of their growing children.
There is also a direct route for expression through the sheer animal vitality of youth, which all by itself can make life feel worth living. I recall a middle-aged male friend of mine’s recent comment on seeing a young man running effortlessly up several flights of stairs recently, not because he had to, just because he could. “I can’t do that any more – my back’s too bad !” he remarked. “It made me feel wistful, reminded me of the youthful grace and energy which I once had.”
(ii) “As You Like It ”: (1599) act 2, sc 7, l 139, The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 1999 Edition, p 658, par 26
(iii) “Thoughts on Childhood” from Personally Speaking column, Stornoway Gazette, September 1970
TO BE CONTINUED……Part Three follows shortly….
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1000 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2010
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