Add to the list of “things they don’t tell you before having children” this conversation:
Arlo: (bopping a red balloon around, just outside of the boundary I set circumscribing the kitchen while I’m making three lunchboxes) “I hope you guys live longer than I do.”
Arlo: “Because I like you guys.”
This child LOVES LIFE. I’ve never known anyone to find such pure joy simply from being alive. He lives vibrantly, energetically, so vividly that his life force is practically palpable. Thermodynamics tells us that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but the way Arlo lives threatens that theorem. The vibrational resonance of his engagement in and appreciation of life is electromagnetic, and the power of his love feels both spiritual and gravitational. I’m convinced that, had he been born in a different place and time, he might have been snatched from my arms to be raised as a shaman or a lama or a mage or an imam. He’s an empath with a sense of compassion so intense that he does things like burst into tears and literally fall to his knees when his sister spilled water on the homemade book she’d finally finished illustrating with markers because he knew how hard she’d worked, how much she cared, how proud she was. His feelings weren’t only for her; they were with her; they were his too. He’s the kid who shares things he loves purely because he derives delight from the experience. People have told me, “He’s so good at sharing,” but that’s not it; he’s just really good at loving.
Upon further discussion, Arlo explicated his wish to be outlived to clarify that, because he loves us and because he loves life, he wants us to live as long as possible. He knows that some of us will outlive others, and he loves so fiercely that he wants to give us the gift of longest life. Mortality is on his mind more frequently than most kids’, I think, because he appreciates being alive so profoundly and with such cognizance that he doesn’t take it for granted, and he’s often talking to me about death, saying that he doesn’t want any of us to die. He told me that if he had one wish, it would be to let everyone on Earth live as long as they want to. That’s some next-level benevolence. And this kid is FIVE.
Can you imagine what it would be like if the world and its infrastructure were designed by adults similarly driven by forces of magnanimity, generosity of spirit, avid goodwill? By a horde of humanitarians hungry for a higher harmonic of existence? Our history books are rife with horror stories and peopled with leaders who suffer from moral bankruptcy, insatiably chasing power and amassing fortune and capitalizing on every opportunity for personal advancement, fueled by fear or narcissism or inferiority complexes, their priorities hijacked by greed or senseless convention. They were born into a world so unfriendly that their recourse was to fight back, and no one ever taught them that a more effective avenue to success, which is to say happiness, is to love back instead.
I hope the future is disturbed and restructured by people like Arlo, people whose sense of selflessness is the opposite of martyrdom, whose munificence is guided by the desire not just to live illuminated by the pilot light of love but to share that kind of life with others. What greater gift can there be than the kind of sustenance that comes from sharing such a clarified, such a rarefied, existence?
In “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, Eliot asks, “Do I dare / Disturb the universe?” Arlo dares. Let’s all dare.