By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
Several youngsters arrive at the church nursery’s toddler room. Two adults stand ready to play, comfort or redirect, as needed, with reinforcements available in the connected rooms on either side.
A gazillion playthings – blocks and books and balls and more – practically beg to be played with. Most kids find something they like and happily entertain themselves.
Taylor (not his real name) finds a purple, plastic, rocking caterpillar, hoists himself into the saddle and starts on a magical voyage.
Morgan (not his real name) notes Taylor’s happiness and decides he wants a share of that.
Taylor indicates his journey isn’t yet finished and that it is a journey ideally experienced in solitude.
Morgan throws a fit.
Fortunately, a little soothing, a little assurance that he’ll get his turn, a little redirecting of his attention to other people and other playthings, gradually seems to set Morgan’s world aright again.
Taylor rides off toward whatever adventure is just beyond the horizon. Given the expression of bliss on his face, we can assume he’s riding through a very happy land.
Eventually Taylor’s magical journey draws to a close. Imagining the caterpillar’s long-gone antennae as reins, he skids the sure-footed steed to a stop, dismounts, dusts himself off and tiredly but happily walks away in search of rest and refreshment before the next adventure.
Morgan, across the room, notices the purple caterpillar now sitting idle. He drops the building blocks he’s been assembling and approaches the saddle mount.
The grownups surmise that the caterpillar is about to accompany another young adventurer on his personal odyssey.
They surmise in error.
Morgan studies the purple caterpillar, flips it onto its back, turns and walks away.
He learns in small measure that a forbidden fruit once gained may not be as sweet as first imagined.
Morgan doesn’t know it yet, but he’s tasted a longing for something not available in this world.
The Preacher phrased it this way in Ecclesiastes 1:8 – “All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.”
The Preacher expounded on the quandary in Ecclesiastes 3:11 – “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
Morgan found that caterpillars – even purple plastic ones that rock – ultimately fail to satisfy. But just as real caterpillars don’t remain caterpillars, Morgans don’t stay mortals.
Contact Daily Journal Oxford bureau reporter Errol Castens at firstname.lastname@example.org.