Arms, Legs, Attitude, and Divinity

Dear Will:

Greetings from around the corner. I hope all is well with you and that your summer is shaping up to be full of fun, adventure, and prosperity. Failing that, then at least I hope you find a good book or two to read. I have several—I just don’t have time to read them.

But enough whining about petty things—here’s something really worth whining about: Today my oldest son Luke turned twelve. It didn’t exactly come upon me unawares, but it is a jolt nonetheless.

Feeling just a tad nostalgic, tonight my wife Dana and I leafed through photo albums, reminiscing about when he was little and cute. He’s still cute, of course, but in a completely different way. Now he’s all arms and legs and attitude, with a squeaky voice which reminds me that my little dude is quickly becoming (gulp!) a man.

The wondrous thing about watching a child grow is witnessing the discovery of interests and talents that seem to predate this mortal existence. Luke, we are finding out, is a reluctant pianist but gifted with the clarinet. He dislikes math yet won the Math Olympiad at his school. He is a fledgling artist (a genetic mutation if ever there was one) and, to my complete delight, a rather remarkable writer. I know that around twelve years ago I lost all ability to look at him objectively, but I do see in him a divine potential that I can only hope not to screw up.

Nevertheless, there is much that Luke still needs to learn, much that is far more important than the ability to paint a picture or compose an elegant phrase. I speak, of course, of the divine attributes which are the true sign of maturity. In that regard, Luke would do well to remember the words of our Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley:

There is something of divinity in you. You have such tremendous potential because of your inherited nature. Every one of you was endowed by your Father in Heaven with a tremendous capacity to do good in the world. Cultivate the art of being kind, of being thoughtful, of being helpful. Refine within you the quality of mercy which comes as a part of the divine attributes you inherited.  (Stand a Little Taller, p. 185)

That’s good advice for all of us, even people like me who don’t possess even a fraction of Luke’s talent and potential. Wouldn’t it be great if we all could cultivate a bit more of our divinity and in the process maybe make a difference in the lives of those around us? I know that my family would sure like it if I did.

PW

From a More Exalted Sphere

Dear Will:

I think I may have mentioned that I spend a pretty good chunk of my time hanging out with a two-year-old (that would be Seth, our youngest).  Every day, it seems, he finds a new way to charm and delight us.  Partly that’s due to the fact that we are his unabashedly subjective parents.  Partly that’s due to the age, that brief period of life in which a everything a child does seems to sparkle.  But much of what delights us about him is innate—divine, even—the sort of thing we would love to take credit for but cannot possibly.

Each of us has within us a spark of divinity, and that spark seems to burn brightest when we are still but a short time removed from “that God which is our home.”  Wordsworth’s familiar verse comes immediately to mind:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
That soul that rises with us, our life’s Star
Hath had elsewhere its setting:
And cometh from afar
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

(From: “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”)

That well-loved poem speaks of “Intimations of Immortality,” those ineffable, deep-down hints of our divine heritage.  Although Heaven may indeed lie “all about us in our infancy,” I believe that even as we age we retain within us clues of whence we came.  Another poet put it this way:

For a wise and glorious purpose
Thou hast placed me here on earth
And withheld the recollection
Of my former friends and birth;
Yet oft-times a secret something
Whispered, “You’re a stranger here,”
And I felt that I had wandered
From a more exalted sphere.

(From: “O My Father,” by Eliza R. Snow)

All of which brings to mind the words of my own mother, who never failed to send us out to play with a mandate that echoes in my mind to this day: “Remember who you are.”  Which I offer now as my simple message to you.

PW