Imagine, just for a moment, an alternate reality in which you never saw the sea, or the sky, or felt the power of a storm rattling your bones. Imagine you never felt the calm after it. Imagine you lived in Plato’s cave and all you saw your entire life were shadows.
What then if I showed you this painting by Rembrandt?
What would you feel? Awe? Fear? Wonder? Nothing?
Most likely it would be the latter.
You see, the majority of our emotions, aside from the most instinctive, are the direct result of first-hand experience. We feel because we know, because we sense…and through the senses we evolve and gain depth, perspective, like slabs of rock in a complex sub-section.
And this, friends, is why traveling and experiencing is so critical to the emotional growth of your children. When you show your child the local park you expand their brain to the width and depth of a lake. But when you show them the rest of the country, the tallest mountain in the world, the longest river, the deepest ocean, you expand their brain instead to the width and depth of an entire universe.
You can isolate children between four somber walls and drill them repetitively with dates and names, places and faces. You can zap their energy and zest with images and notions that will mean nothing to them, even when it means everything to you. Or…
You can give them the world in a grain of sand. You can stretch the canvas of their lives and grant them the tools to paint over it; so they may plaster and color to their heart’s content. Show them towers and libraries, rivers and dams, the rich and poor, the happy and the miserly, so they may discover in the process their true selves; give them so much to see and experience that when they step into a museum, bewildered with all that life has to offer, they will be moved to tears by a Rembrandt, and not think of it as simply a cool, colorful wallpaper for their latest phone.
As parents, we often think that certain children are curious and others are not. But methinks we have it all wrong. I believe all children can be curious and inquisitive if we fertilize them with enough experiences. Children are like those plants in the forest floor that grow furiously when the canopy breaks. They are there waiting, it is our job and duty to rip that canopy apart and let the sun shine in.
As Saint Augustine famously said:
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel see only a page.”