Children Who Play Life

Before I was a scientist, I was an artist.  The world, my world, was dominated by emotion.  I spent my days drawing and painting.  I saw the world, not for the objects within it, but for their colors and lines.  I loved the way paint flowed from my brush, and the way a line, the simplest of forms next to the point, both divided and focused a page.  I thought in the language of asthetics.  “If it could be said with words, we would not need the painting,”  I used to say.

That idea spoke to me.  I finally understood abstraction, and it was very dear to me.  My eyes opened to a new world, previously hidden to me–hidden to the masses.  I bathed in my new understanding.

All that changed, I’m not sure when and why.  I lost that “true sight” somewhere along the way.  Thoreau has reminded me, though.

“Children, who play life, discern its true law and relations more clearly than men, who fail to live it worthily, but who think that they are wiser by experience, that is, by failure.”

– Thoreau, Walden, Where I Lived and What I Lived For

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
  Hath had elsewhere its setting,
  And cometh from afar:
  Not in entire forgetfulness,
  And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
  From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
  Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
  He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
  Must travel, still is Nature’s priest,
  And by the vision splendid
  Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

-Wordsworth, Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood


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