There's a marvelous phrase that runs through the final chapter of The Last Battle, the final book in C. S. Lewis's extraordinary Chronicles of Narnia. The children (the heroes of the story) are about to achieve passage into Aslan's country, a paradisical world that presents an identical version of their normal world, only more real.
And then something weird happens. To get to this sublime, more genuine place, they enter through a narrow door into what appears from the outside to be a small hut—yet the world they find inside the hut is much larger than the world they entered from.
"The further up and further in you go, the bigger everything gets," explains Tumnus the Faun, their tour guide. "The inside is larger than the outside."
The inside is larger than the outside.
This, of course, flies in the face of conventional physical logic. (Although advances in quantum physics have found that this turns out to be an apt description of the physical world after all: there is more energy on the inside of empty space than there is in all the matter in the known universe.) Yet I think Tumnus's observation is a perfect description not only of the world the children have just entered, but also of the children themselves.
That is what is so mesmerizing, delicious, and inspiring about infants. Even though they cannot communicate their thoughts with words, you can tell just by looking at them: there is so much going on in there.
Their world is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.
In fact, it's not that they cannot communicate their thoughts in words. They don't have their thoughts in words. Words are containers into which they have not yet shrunk their sense of it all. Their reality is too big. Only later will they learn to chop it up and place it, item by item, into words. If all goes well and they are able to stay in touch with their interior spaciousness as they age, they eventually will learn to deepen the dimension of their words so that they may hold larger and larger experiences. If all goes well, the wordless wisdom of the infant eventually rediscovers itself in the artfully worded wisdom of the elderly.
My wife, Ana Gabriel Mann, likes to point out that each of us has a little boy or little girl inside, alive and well. For some, that little person seems buried deep; for others, he or she seems quite present and close to the surface.
Perhaps the greatest gift we can give others is to notice the part of them that is bigger on the inside, and not simply interact with the outside.
JOHN DAVID MANN is Consulting Editor of Networking Times.