“Ball,” he said, and he gestured to the heavens. I looked where my little boy was pointing and saw a full moon hanging high in the winter sky.
“That’s right, you brilliant boy,” I said. “It is a ball. The moon is a great big ball.”
He didn’t know more than four or five words at the time: Mama. Daddy. Ball. Dog. Plane. What a remarkable thing—to have words only for one’s favorite things in the world.
“The moon is a ball,” I told my boy, “and so is the earth we’re standing on. This whole world is one big ball set spinning in the universe.”
He smiled at me. It was not a smile of comprehension, but of contentment. To me it seemed to say, “Of course this whole world is a ball! And why shouldn’t it be? It’s a great ball where dogs trot and planes soar overhead and my mama loves me and my daddy holds me in the cold night and tells me what I suspected all along: that the moon is a ball, and the world is too.”
Jonathan Rogers is the author of The Terrible Speed of Mercy, one of the finest biographies of Flannery O’Connor we've ever read. His other books include the Wilderking Trilogy–The Bark of the Bog Owl, The Secret of the Swamp King, and The Way of the Wilderking–as well as The World According to Narnia and a biography of Saint Patrick. He has spent most of his adult life in Nashville, Tennessee, where he and his wife Lou Alice are raising a houseful of robustious children.
Someday I’ll be able to pour huge amounts of punch and energy into a very few words. When (let’s be honest, if) that day comes, I shall point to Jonathan Rogers as my sensei in such things.
Just lovely. The security of a loving family and a sense that all is right with the world.
Thanks, Jonathan. Perhaps this anecdote also points to the human instinct for metaphor. Maybe I’m overthinking this, but it would seem that your boy was doing something profoundly poetic – describing one thing in terms of something else. And the thing he’s using as a metaphor is something more familiar. That’s so much of what poets do – take a complex emotion and find a way to answer the question, “What’s it like?” That’s exciting to me, to think that we are wired to see the world figuratively. So much of my ability to understand God has come from the necessity to use this figurative level of understanding – Good Shepherd, lost coin, Passover Lamb, bridegroom, etc. It’s my personal opinion that a rich understanding of the way metaphor works contributes profoundly to our understanding of the Trinity.
As Carrie said.
And Glenn, what a fabulous observation about metaphors.
This is just beautiful. <3
And I should have known that, if anyone speaks baby, it would be the doctor Rogers.
I loved this, Jonathan. It’s amazing what beautiful simplicity exists in the hearts of the very young, before the world transforms us into sophisticated dissecters of reality. I suspect that’s why the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.
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