Sunday, 3 May 2009

Rowan Tree and Sophie's World

A variety of thoughts presented themselves this morning and they seemed somewhat linked. I had a moment on Friday when I wanted to have a rant because they had a discussion on the Jeremy Vine Show on Radio 2 talking about yet another proposal by Ed Balls to reduce the school starting age. It got me so irate ... but then that programme always does because it brings out all the bigots and intolerant people (ok sometimes intelligent, reasonable ones too if I am honest). And then I started re-reading Sophie's World last night. I read about half of this book many years ago when it was new out but never finished it, it was probably a bit demanding for someone too taken up with small children. I found it in a charity shop recently so thought I would give it another go. It is so packed with ideas I thought I might write stuff about it as I go along. In the first chapter Sophie is presented with a few of the 'big questions' which immediately grab her interest. It is as if no one has ever talked to her seriously before or challenged her to think about anything real or important. Her immediate reaction to these ideas is that "at school she had trouble concentrating on what the teachers said. They seemed to talk only about unimportant things" and that they are "only concerned with trivialities". "Sophie felt that thinking about them (the questions) was more important than memorizing irregular verbs." You find comments like these scattered through life, literature and politics, and I find it unfathomable that people seem to remain convinced that school has something relevant to do with real growth and understanding and finding meaning.
So here you have this question; who are you? and in reality it is the thing that should concern people, particularly as they are growing their own sense of identity and place in the world. By coincidence I was sent the Rowan Tree newsletter (this comes from an online shop called Beneath the Rowan Tree that sells beautiful stuff for children) and it tells a lovely story about a little girl who thinks she is a fish, and how so often grownups desperately want children to basically 'not be children', often, I think, because it makes them too uncomfortable. But this kind of imagination is so important a part of thinking about 'who are you?'. She then quotes the lyrics of a song, and it is so heartbreaking (sorry, being mawkish) because it encapsulates what children lose in growing up (and it is killed stone dead when they go to school), it comes apparently from Trout Fishing in America:

Back When I Could Fly

I used to be invisible, a shape changing magic kid.
I could move at the speed of thought and frequently I did,
But my greatest accomplishment was a slow and looping glide.
I saw the tops of everything,
back when I could fly.

I'd take my daily nap on the highest leafy branch,
And follow shooting stars on a comet's fiery lance.
I was quite the prodigy, when I owned the sky.
I never thought I'd have to walk,
back when I could fly.

Keep your eye on the ball, your feet on solid ground.
Always sit up straight and tall and never make a sound.
In just a few short years, I learned not to be a child,
And I forgot the things I had when I was wild.

Now, my child, you'll learn arithmetic, coloring and sports.
You'll have a flair for nouns and verbs, and be late with book reports.
But in spite of all the rules that bind your wings so tight,
I hope you won't forget about the days when you could fly.

I'd take my daily nap on the highest leafy branch,
And follow shooting stars on a comet's fiery lance.
I was quite the prodigy, when I owned the sky.
I never thought I'd have to walk,
I never had to try,
Back when I could fly.

1 comment:

  1. Reading your post and the song lyrics makes me wonder whether it is the reason why we don't have the kind of great minds like Da Vinci and Mozart, and so many others of times past.

    Society doesn't like curious children asking too many questions or "experimenting" with their fertile imaginations.

    Imagine the possibilities!


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