Hello &

Hello &

Wentworth Earl Miller III

Wentworth Earl Miller III



Thursday, February 19, 2015

Inner Is Served by Wentworth Miller

Inner Is Served

19 February 2015

My inner child gets a lot of play. Or should I say "playtime."

That makes me happy.

The way I imagine it, my inner child embodies my capacity for wonder. Excitement. Magical thinking. Hope. There are times when I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. Specifically my kid. My former 5 year-old self. And in those times I feel joy.

And as a man rapidly approaching his mid-40s, who's been around the block more than once (if not the whole neighborhood), I know that joy is a feeling worth cherishing. Courting. At every opportunity.

But, truth be told, my inner child can also be a bit of a brat. Willful. Selfish. Immature.
(He is, after all, only 5.)

There are times when I feel his little hand reaching out to take the wheel, trying to steer me into a tantrum when life doesn't go my way. And in those times I'm careful to remove that little hand. Gently but firmly. Because children have no business driving.

From various things I've read there could be good reasons my inner child feels so present and accounted for. Certain schools of scientific/spiritual thought suggest that there is only the "now," that the past and future don't really exist. That everything we ever were - or will be - is present in the present. So to speak.

I'm not really patient/clever enough to understand most of that stuff. But I like the gist. I like the idea that the "me" I was at 5 is in some way/shape/form still present tense.

And if that's true, isn't it possible that my future self or selves are present as well? Isn't it possible that, somewhere within me, is "me" at 50? At 60? At 90? Could my "inner elder" be just as real, and accessible, as my inner child?

If so he's been keeping a low profile.

Maybe he's press-shy.

He's definitely less popular than his younger counterpart.

If I google "Inner Child" I get more than 4,400,000 hits.

"Inner Elder" gets me less than 3,000.

Seems a little lopsided.

Not to mention unfair. Like we've been overfeeding our inner children while our inner elders are left to starve.

I don't think it's a secret many of us spend a great deal of time and money kneeling at the altar of youth, hoping to stay young, feel young, or at least appear young. We might want to grow "up" but we don't want to grow "old," dreading the day we're dismissed as another old fart/bat/biddy/bag/hag. A crone/goat/geezer. A blue hair/coot/codger. A relic. A fossil.

Said dread is somewhat understandable, considering we live in an age when our elders are frequently presented to us as worthy of mockery or suspicion, there to be rebelled against or overthrown outright. A drain on our time/energy/resources. A wet rag. Spoiling the party.

And who knows? Some of that might even be warranted.

By contrast younger generations are fetishized, emulated, ennobled. Aggressively catered to. Especially by advertisers. Certainly by Hollywood. One could argue Hollywood goes a step further, inverting the natural order, routinely stripping elders of whatever knowledge they might impart and stuffing it in the mouths of babes. On screens large and small, pre and pubescent sages school hapless, infantilized parents/aunts/uncles on everything from dating tips for the newly single to remedies for existential angst.

It's not for me to say whether children are the fonts of hard-won wisdom Hollywood would have us believe. For all I know the world is teeming with moppet-mystics, ready to give Solomon a run for his shekels.

What I can say is that when faced with an adult decision, my inner child can be counted on to give terrifically unhelpful advice. Usually along the lines of "Have a cookie."

"What would my inner child say?" is not a question I ask myself in times of crisis.

"What would my inner elder say?" is. Increasingly.

Had I been born in a different time/place, I might be able to answer that question more easily. In that (possibly totally imaginary) time/place, I would have grown up in a tight-knit tribal community where the young were indeed raised by the entire village. Then one day, when I was old enough, I would have been initiated, invited by my elders to come and sit by the fire and hear the Wisdom Of The Ages. I would have taken my seat with awe and respect, leaned closer to the flames for heat and my elders for learning, soaking up as much as I could, already anticipating the day when I too would become an elder, when I would wear the skins and carry the staff, the Wisdom Of The Ages now mine to pass down to the next generation...

But for me - the real me - there was no initiation. No skins, no staff. No Wisdom Of The Ages.
This strikes me as a loss.

In the absence of those (possibly totally imaginary) tribal elders, I was left to make my own way. To create my own model of adulthood. With mixed results.

Cut to me at age 40, still feeling like a boy-man, resolving one New Year's Eve to leave my sneakers in the closet for the next 12 months unless I was going to the gym. My hope was that by putting on shoes every day (and in Los Angeles no less, where men wear flip flops to restaurants and high tops to pitch meetings) I would walk more like a grown-up walks and thus feel more like a grown-up feels.

And it worked. To a degree.

But it felt like poor compensation for more formalized rites of passage that would have/should have taken place years earlier, long before my hair started turning white, signaling the arrival of age and the maturity/gravitas that goes with it. But didn't. Hasn't.

I confess I'm still waiting for that maturity/gravitas to make its appearance. And may wait a while longer.

In the meantime, I've decided to get a head start.

Inner  Elder looking for the Inner Child

I've taken to cultivating my inner elder.

Picturing who he is. What he's like. What he stands for. What he holds sacred. What he does not.

The way I imagine it, my inner elder - weathered, wizened - takes pride in the lines on his face, the sunspots attesting to time spent in the sun. He's a man who's seen some sh-t. Expert at finding gold in the darkness. Old enough to know what and who is worth getting worked up about (and what and who is not). Wise enough to have embraced the grayscale, surrendering the childish insistence that the world and everything in it be colored exclusively in black and white. Experienced enough to understand that the kind of shoes a man wears is less important than the kind of man wearing them.

Spending time with my inner elder demystifies him. And by "him" I mean me. Me older. Me old. Giving me something to step into. Even look forward to.

These days, while cruising life's highway, I pretend it's my inner elder who rides shotgun, occasionally reaching out to take the wheel while my inner child takes a much-deserved nap in the backseat, wrapped snugly in a stadium blanket.

In her lovely essay "An inner child, an inner elder," Adair Lara describes her inner elder as a "calm, reassuring presence, reminding [her] sagely that most things pass."

Likewise, I also find myself calling on my inner elder for counsel in troubling times. And while he may not have much (or anything) to say specific to my problems, he does remind me that I've faced many seemingly world-ending challenges before. And lo! The world did not end.

But if/when those troubling times prove especially troubling, I can picture him patting my head, comforting me. Soothing me. Like my grandfather used to do.

Then telling me to "Have a cookie."  

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