If you’re familiar with babies, you know that they have unbelievable flexibility. My nearly 6-month-old son, George, regularly kicks back his legs and chews on his toes for a while. He does this in the same nonchalant manner that I might scratch my head.
My wife, Faith, has been taking George to baby yoga for the last several months. (Yes, it’s apparently a thing here in DC.) Baby yoga is all about mom and baby doing some light physical activity together, stretching, and practicing gross motor skills – insofar as that’s possible for an infant with virtually no muscle mass.
By his very nature as a baby, George is more flexible than Faith could ever hope to be. Then again, George is also unable to hold his head up for long periods of time. He doesn’t have the strength even to crawl across the floor, much less walk, run, or operate motor vehicles.
While baby George is among the most flexible people on earth, he’s also one of the weakest.
We have a friend who says that flexibility and strength are inversely related. If you have more of one, you’re likely to have less of the other. I don’t know if this is true in an absolute sense, but it certainly seems to be the case with babies. They’re totally flexible, elastic in every sense. Not only can they move their limbs in ways that would be impossible for an adult, they’re also able to learn and grow at a pace that is downright astounding. In the next few years, he’ll learn a new language and go through what amounts to a program of massive physical therapy. He’ll develop the social skills he needs to thrive in a world where relationships are crucial. He has the flexibility to do all these things, precisely because he is weak.
As adults, we’re supposed to be strong. Instead of mostly not knowing, we’re expected to know things. Instead of spending most of our time learning, we’re required to apply our knowledge. And rightly so. The whole point of learning things is to put them into practice. The reason we develop so quickly as children is so that we can become proficient in the basic life tasks that will allow us to succeed. Walking, speaking, playing, painting – we grow up to transform and sustain our world.
But in all of this vital activity, there is a loss of openness. Decisions have been made. Doors close. Learning and growing takes a back seat to building and sustaining. We lose much of that innate flexibility that we once possessed, back when we were weak and had nowhere to go but up.
All of this makes me wonder: What would happen if I embraced a little bit more weakness in my life? What if I were able to let go of some of my established ways of thinking and doing, and opened myself to something completely different? What new horizons would I discover? What growth would I experience if I allowed myself to be flexible like George again?