Thursday, 27 January 2011

On children - Sweet Honey inspiration

A delicious piece of singing for you to enjoy, about children's place in the world. Enjoy for its own sake and, if you want to, read why I posted it today.

I'm still reading John Wall's Ethics in light of childhood. His ideas on what the experience of childhood reveals about the experience of humanity are incredibly liberating. He talks about 'creativity' as the essence of human being, about how each person lives within a complex pre-existing world while also making a constant impact on it: re-creates it in some way. We are each passive hostages to huge unstoppable forces - nature, history, culture, society - and actively creating new versions of those forces or of being within them.

This is true, Wall says, for all humans, but is most clearly visible during childhood. A baby is born into a world that already exists and is quite clearly vulnerable in relation to it. But from the moment of birth, the baby also changes that world, creates relationships that could not exist before and reshapes daily life by her responses to hunger, voices or warmth.

I urge anyone who is interested in revolutionary thinking about children's place in the world to read the book. But that's not why I wrote this blog post. No, this is the reason.

This morning, John Wall reminded me of the first spark of what was to become my world view about children, childhood and children's rights. Wall says (with apologies for the opaque philosophical lingo):

'A child is a "gift" in the complex sense of both being passively given her being by the world, and actively giving being to the world. She comes from us yet also comes to us. She is a 'being' in both the active and the passive senses of that word.'

This is so very close to Kahlil Gibran's words in 'On children' ...

'Your children are not your children
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself
They come through you but they are not for you
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.'

... that it took me back to a day in the mid-late 1980s when I first heard those words in Leeds City Hall, sung so beautifully by the a capella group Sweet Honey in the Rock. It was one of those days, that come so rarely in life, when I actively felt my ideas changing. Those are good days, and Sweet Honey's version still moves me.

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