It does not take much to entertain a child. Or at least, that is how we perceive it. As we mature the things that amused us or fascinated us as children seem mundane—even boring. We give these sources of amusement names, like “childish” as if this was a derogatory term. As adults we can do something that is endlessly entertaining for a child, especially a young child. The seemingly simplest of actions can elicit cries of, “Again! Again!” And sometimes this irks us.
A child can be astonished by, and in awe of, the simplest of things, and it confounds the adult mind. It takes much more to astonish an adult—and in certain situations this can be a good thing. It would not do for the licensed driver to sit in dumbstruck astonishment every time the stoplight changed colors. The difference in sources of amusement and astonishment for adults and children can be seen in the stories and aspects of stories that entertain each as G.K. Chesterton states in Orthodoxy:
Just as we all like love tales because there is an instinct of sex, we all like astonishing tales because they touch the nerve of the ancient instinct of astonishment. This is proved by the fact that when we are very young children we do not need fairy tales: we only need tales. Mere life is interesting enough. A child of seven is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door and saw a dragon. But a child of three is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door. Boys like romantic tales; but babies like realistic tales — because they find them romantic. In fact, a baby is about the only person, I should think, to whom a modern realistic novel could be read without boring him. (Chesterton)
The adult is bored at being told that someone opened the front door—even bored in most cases at being told someone came through the front door. The child finds it fascinating that there is a door in the first place, let alone that the door opened and someone came through it. The child has a sense of wonder and astonishment that is deep and strong—what G.K. Chesterton referred to as instinct—and can find wonder in the simplest things. If the door is a source of fascination to a child, then a flower is absolutely extraordinary. When the stoplight changes color for the child it is a source of dumbstruck awe. And when the sun rises it is something beyond comprehension. Adults would do well to retain and to emulate some of this wonder. The ability to take wonder in the seemingly simple or mundane is a valuable ability—and reflects the fact that we are created in the image of God:
Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. (Chesterton)
Retain this wonder. Cultivate it. Remember your old appreciation for things that cynicism, sin, and the detrimental sort of age that Chesterton speaks of, have long since dulled. Never lose your awe. Never lose your appreciation. Never lose your sense of wonder.
Chesterton, G.K. Orthodoxy. 1908. Print.