When Jack was 6, in first grade, I saw him standing by the window, a distraught look on his face. As you remember, Jack felt things deeply. I figured he was having friend trouble, perhaps being made fun of because of some of his quirky behaviors.
"What's going on?" I asked.
"I'm just so sad people choose transitory joy over what's important," he said.
Whoah...WHAT???? Insert screetchy needle being lifted from a record player sound here unless you are too young to remember what I'm talking about.
What did my little six year old know about transitory joy? What did I know about it? And why was it getting him down?
Turns out his class had memorized this (not uplifting but timelessly apt) poem:
The Flies and the Honey Pot
A jar of honey chanced to spill
Its contents on the windowsill
In many a viscous pool and rill.
The flies, attracted by the sweet,
Began so greedily to eat,
They smeared their fragile wings and feet.
With many a twitch and pull in vain
They gasped to get away again,
And died in aromatic pain.
O foolish creatures that destroy
Themselves for transitory joy.
Even at 6, Jack was a patient person. He was not given to greed or excess in his desires or appetites. He could understood this poem and could already recognize how many people could be drawn in by what appeared to be seemingly sweet, but was in truth harmful.
Fortunately for us, this was about the time Lindsay Lohan started going off the rails post "Parent Trap" so we always had a tangible example on hand.
I tell you this story not because Jack didn't himself enjoy the transitory joy of a cold Dr. Pepper, a great joke, getting to one more level on a video game, or staying out extra late on a warm summer night. He enjoyed all of those things and more, and that was good.
But Jack also saw the appeal of boundaries and restraint. And even as a six year old, it appears he was beginning to understand that real joy comes from the eternal, not the transitory.