Monday, January 05, 2009

Loving kindness

It is often said of small children now that they are naturally cruel, but it is less often said that they are naturally kind, instinctively concerned for the well-being of others, often disturbed by the suffering of others and keen to allay it. Nineteenth-century accounts of the "innocence" of children, distrusted today as overly sentimental, were also an attempt to speak up for children's spontaneous kind-heartedness. Loss of childhood innocence was, among other things, the loss of a more affectionately trusting nature. After Darwin and Freud we have more ways than ever before of describing our suspicions about our more benevolent feelings - and indeed, about children as innocent. But there is a crucial fact worth putting as simply as possible: the easy kindness of childhood, the reflex of engaged concern that children show for others, all too easily gets lost in growing up; and that this loss, when it occurs on a wide enough scale, is a cultural disaster.
-- from Love thy neighbour by Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor

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