Neoteny for geezers
August 30, 2006
I'm drawn to this concept of neoteny: a quality of engagement in which the world is as attractive to me as a 64 year old as it is to an active preschooler (Bennis and Thomas in Geeks and Geezers).
Brycen, our four-year old grandson, sees life through the eyes of Bob the Builder, a cartoon construction character who can build and fix anything.
This loveable, energetic grandson is a hopeless romantic, convinced that there is nothing he can't do. Not burdened by failure, made cynical by the frivolous or become cautious by the unknown, he models this "quality of engagement."
Having "seen it all," having been exposed to the hyperbole of televangelists, having listened to the partisan polemics of politicians and having felt the disabling hurt of personal failure, life too easily slips into the tactics of caution, as much for a 34-year old as for a 64-year old.
Leadership requires we purposefully incline our hearts to the child, not the adult. Maturity notwithstanding, Jesus presses us to be as a child: to overcome the anxious "why" with the hopeful "why not?"
"In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways." Edith Wharton
Dear God, creator of the forever-young—neoteny, continue your work of recreating in me an untarnished spirit of trusting you beyond the myopia of age and experience so that I may see and be part of the wider horizons of your calling and blessing. Amen.
Neoteny: The retention of youthful qualities by adults.