Recently, I was invited to the birthday party of a friend’s three-old girl, Olivia. I’m not a parent, so I wasn’t certain exactly what to expect, except that there would be a lot of noise and energy. There was a lot of noise and energy.

Olivia is an alert, smart and, when she wants to be, a charming little girl. As a three year old, Olivia is faced with the immense task of learning to socialize with others.

Successful socialization is, as we post-children know, a life task that will never be completed.

During Olivia’s party I glimpsed how challenging and painful it must be for children to find their way through all our social rules. Lucky for them their brains are still growing at a phenomenal rate and working at a supercharged speed.

Somewhere during this process we learned, as Olivia will, to control the expression of our emotions. We learn it so well that in time we may even be able to hide our emotions from ourselves. The benefit is that we live in a somewhat stable world and are able to interact with each other in a somewhat painless manner.

Unfortunately there is a price. Bit by bit, the blazing fire of our existence is damped down until it is a flickering candle possessing all the attributes of fire, but with little of the heat.

As we approach the last quarter of our lives we begin to remember fragments of that childhood conflagration: the spontaneity, creativity, and magic. We begin to search for ways to recapture the open mind, enthusiasm and effortless curiosity that we had before becoming socialized.

We are only following the arch of life. With grace and luck we may be able to find some of those sparks flashing amongst the banked coals of our lives and ignite a few more candles to illuminate our journey.

What do we yearn for?

Delight, spontaneous and overflowing, that sense of rightness that sends a shiver down our spines. It is that feeling of excitement and belonging that makes us want to tightly wrap our arms around ourselves because we are afraid that we will explode from all the joy inside.

We want to share in Olivia’s delight and be able to see in the candle’s glow the radiance of life’s fire unquenched.

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