When a new person starts to be a part of our life, especially if we feel strong feelings towards her, one of the first things we do is to show her our pictures from when we were kids. It is perhaps a way to tell that person, look this is me, this is my essence, look how cute I was! Now maybe I’m totally different and I feel ugly but it’s like we want to emphasize: look I’m not what you see now, I’m that!
The theme of childhood is closely connected with that of the origin, of our deepest nature that we somehow feel as if we have lost or that we need to reveal in order to show others who we are or rather to remind ourselves who we are. It is interesting to note how we need to remember who we are precisely when we let someone into our life or something affects it, as if the other, in a broad sense, with his/her or its presence alone puts our identity in question. Indeed, the word “other” comes from the Latin “alter”, the other by its very nature alters our balance, puts it in crisis (in decision).
It is there that to make up for this emptiness that we experience we need to go back to our origins, showing photos of our childhood, of our friends and relatives, our relations. We have no other way to say who we are than, paradoxically, by showing an “other” or “others”, showing our relations. Yes another, because we are no longer what we were, we are someone else and looking back we see another person. In not accepting this “otherness” we risk living in a continuous melancholy, an a-relationality with ourselves.
Childhood is also often connected with the gratuitousness of love, a kind of paradise, precisely because we experience unconditional affection and a love that asks nothing back. By experiencing this gratuitousness that we receive from others we base our way of acting in the future.
It is therefore normal to experience this melancholy for something that is no longer there, but perhaps it is even more normal to remember childhood as a propulsive place for our present and future for which to be grateful. Obviously, like all of life, childhood can be punctuated by more or less great traumas, which is why it is also necessary to protect it with all possible means.
What very often happens is that we never get out of infancy, either because we consider it a paradise to be rediscovered or because of traumas. For some, infancy lasts a lifetime. The word infancy derives from the archaic Latin verb fari, which means to speak, and with the addition of in- takes on the meaning of one who does not speak.
How many times we are still unable to speak, to express our voice, who we are, our being. We are all infants at times. It is perhaps by letting go of that “origin” and all our “origins” that we can be an origin again for ourselves and for others, how many infancies we have lived and live in our lives that we do not want to abandon. However, every origin is such because it is free, it does not ask permission, it is.
Perhaps it is by understanding and accepting the freedom of what precedes us and transcends us that we too can live free and not in a perpetual syndrome of abandonment in search of our lost paradises or our traumas, perhaps it is in this way that we can finally emerge from childhood/infancy and begin to really talk, not about what we have lost but about the freedom that taught us that absence of what made us happy in gratuitousness, or what traumatized us, in a continuous flourishing origin.
There is a beautiful quote of a drawing of Snoopy that can perhaps sum up this mystery of childhood: when you are a child you are taught to speak. When you grow up you have to learn to keep quiet. Strange things of existence.