One of childhood’s great pleasures is to populate the world with imagination. It does not require elaborate equipment to engage a child. As the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi said, “Children find everything in nothing; men find nothing in everything.”
Increasingly however, we are putting adult toys in children’s hands. Instead of filling the world with their own images they are presented with characters on screens, entertainment made by adults to hypnotize the attention of children. In place of a quiet and waiting world to be filled with the genius of young fantasy, there is a busy, buzzing, multicolor display ready to do their inventing for them.
The many blessings of technology aside, it often overrides our own imaginations. For children this means that the world is not created but presented to them. And childhood should be about world making.
The prophet’s Messianic vision is that the lion will lay down with the lamb, and a little child will lead them. Today that child would first have to power down. Unless of course, she was surrounded by adults wise enough to do it for her. Let’s relearn how to encourage children’s innate artistry to spring to life.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).