The Critical Eye

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Age of Innocence

I watch as a little boy places his action figure on the table in front of me. His eyes are fixed on the action hero. I can't quite hear what he is saying but I can tell that he is in deep dialogue. He stretches the plastic man's arms out and from one of them extends a sword. I hear a slicing "whoosh" escape his lips.

I am seated on a black leather couch a few feet from his father who pays him no mind and continues to manipulate his Blackberry. I make a reference to how we are all addicted to our Crackberries and the father nods and chuckles. The little boy acknowledges my interruption with a slight gaze but then gets back to his play. He lifts the figure and begins to trot around the waiting area. I can see that he intends for his hero to fly. The whooshing sounds give it away.

His action man flies not too far off the ground in swooping movements. Occasionally his head comes dangerously close to a table but never quite hits it. There is some invisible battle being fought here. The frequent manipulations of the arms and sword indicate a furious engagement that only he can see. He is intense about his endeavor and oblivious to my scrutiny. As I watch he comes back to his father and indicates that his sword is dislodged. His father breaks from his Blackberry task and offers his assistance in reestablishing the hero's weaponry.

Content with his renewed armament, the boy places his figure on the table in front of me and begins an epic battle. As the battle rages on in his mind, I begin to marvel at his freedom. He is totally disconnected from the activity around him. Here we are in a gymnasium lobby, he waiting on a sibling, me waiting on my daughter who is in her Tae Kwan Do class. Unlike the little boy, my mind is racing with the responsibilities of adulthood; work, mortgage, car notes and all the other things that make being a grown up cumbersome.

I keep my gaze on this little boy and feel the envy creep slowly through me. A life without the burden of tomorrow, the freedom of a spirit that enjoys only the moment. I try to reconnect with my childhood memories. Of playtime with Alexander Smith as we loaded sand into the backs of toy dump trucks. I recall building roads in the dirt and padding down the loose dirt with water; my times with Kitu Singh and his sister Emma, whose teeth are credited with the scar over my left eye.

The little boy in this waiting room represents more to me than nostalgic memories. He is the epitome of freedom and covering. His father sits protectively, engaged in his own activity, his occasional look keeps watch over his offspring's ministrations. The son, surrounded by the comfort of this protection, continues his play unconcerned. I envy this, never having had the comfort of a father of my own. Never having known that protective feeling of a man's influence over my youth.

This relationship between this boy and his father is about as close a human feeling one can get to understanding our relationship with God. One can truly only be as nonchalant as this child when one lives in the knowledge of the covering and protection provided by someone willing to face death and danger on your behalf. I never had a father that felt me important enough to press through his challenges to embrace me. The feeling of abandonment that I claimed I never felt, has manifested itself in my adulthood like a carved Greek pillar in a museum.

So as I sit here watching this boy, I am taken back to my own fears, hurts and hang-ups. My nothingness in the expanse of a life built on the insecurities of no God-figure. My disconnection from an integral shape-defining relationship that could have charted me on a different course. His "whoosh" brings me back into the moment and I smile at him. He looks up at me with his brown eyes and asks, "What is your name?" I hesitate and respond, "Soneka Kamuhuza," and as the words leave my lips, immediately realize the fallacy. Unlike this boy, whose father sits guard, I have never taken on my fathers identity, nor felt his comfort in my life. He has left no memories of innocent playing on my pages, nor created a shield around my life.

Yet oddly I am drawn to this moment, this innocence, this freedom. In this boy we all live vicariously, playing free, in our own little world, believing without looking, knowing deep inside our hearts, that we are protected.