Learning from the Babies

There are lots of useful aids to meditation out there.

Some people go for icons, others a candle. Scripture or other spiritual readings are just what the guru ordered for some. Still others prefer one of the innumerable gifts of creation: the sea, a sunset, the mountains, a blade of grass.

Me, I like babies.

When I have one around, that is, which is the case at the moment.

Itís actually kind of difficult to get babies off my mind these days considering that my personal baby is physically on me about twenty-two hours a day, including the darkest dark of night. He evidently finds the crook of my arm much more comfortable than his mattress, and you know, thatís okay. Iím keenly aware of how quickly time passes, and if this baby prefers the warmth of our bed to the cold of his during this blink of an eye before he goes off to college, heís welcome to stay.

So, since Iím a firm believer of letting God speak through the realities of the present moment, when I want to listen, when I want to get a jump-start to prayer, I watch the baby.

Weíll start with smiles. Is there anything better than the toothless grin of a baby?

I canít stop wondering why they do it.

Heís eleven weeks out of the womb, and when heís alert and not annoyed at the worldís failure to constantly give him something to suck on, heís doing one phenomenal thing: heís smiling. Grinning, gurgling and making the most splendid dimples ever seen.

Secular scientists have tried mightily over the past two centuries to strip the universe of God. Thereís no purpose or end, to our existence, many of them declare, and our presence here is the result of pure chance. My baby argues against that depressing scenario without saying a world. Iíve read quite a bit on the subject, and no one, not the cleverest evolutionary behaviorist, has been able to answer the question of why, at about four weeks of age, this little primate started locking eyes with familiar faces and meeting their silly grins with a big beaming one of his own. How does he know that what heís doing is what weíre doing, too? Where did the desire and the satisfaction in the act come from?

Chance? Randomness? Does anyone really believe that? Does anyone really want to?

No, my babyís grin assures me that in spite of the enduring puzzles, Godís hand in creation canít be so easily slapped away.

Iím also moved to wonder, though, in our extended mutual admiration sessions, why human infants are born so helpless, especially in comparison to most other species? Why so dependent and for so long? A possible answer came to me last week, one that might have occurred to you to, in your own musings.

Perhaps weíre born not quite finished so we can be finished in the presence of other people.

Maybe our nervous systems remain a bit raw and undirected so that they can be formed in response to the sounds, touch and faces of other human beings.

Perhaps our eyes donít focus perfectly for weeks so that they can learn their first lessons in relation to the human face.

And maybe we must be taught to communicate, to move and to play by other human beings so that from the very beginning, social bonds become the basis of our existence and we can learn, the process, the most important lesson of all Ė to love and be loved.

God, it seems, has given a great gift in the midst of what might seem, at first glance, to be an annoying inconvenience, and even a disadvantage.

The baby comes among us, helpless and in some ways, incomplete. In teaching the child, weíre finishing the job God started: weíre weaving the bonds and planting the seeds that will enable that child to express his unique identity as Godís child, made in Godís image, able to reason, to create, and, most importantly, to love.

Itís a responsibility. Itís a gift. And most of the time, if we open ourselves to it, itís a lot of fun, besides.