Many years after reading George Orwell's Animal Farm as part of my school book list, I have found myself returning to Orwell's books. His simple yet descriptive telling of how things are strikes a chord for me now, just as it did quite a few decades ago. For this series of articles I will take some of his quotes and explore what they might mean for us now. I'm sure we'll discover that much of what he thought and wrote about during his life span, from his birth in 1903 until his death in 1950, still has some relevance today.
"I am not able, and I do not want, completely to abandon the world view that I acquired in childhood." Orwell wrote this in his book "Why I write" about his interest in writing, his interest in making sense of his world and his inner thoughts in a public manner. He spoke of his interest in noticing the world around him and writing about it, not suppressing it inside.
This quote reminds me of the importance of childhood hopes and dreams. The wishes we make about the future. Our expectations about what we will be when we grow up. The answers we gave when adults asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. The flippant replies we may have provided. Or perhaps a shrug of the shoulders,whether we knew or not. Or maybe a clear and definite answer that showed a determination to make it happen.
Perhaps under the shrug, under the answers, we had, like Orwell, a determination shared or not. A sense that we had something we simply had to do. An urge that couldn't be competed with. A sense that the world needed us to do something and we knew this from an early age. It was just a matter of time until we could, like Orwell, do what we set out to do.
I wonder whether when we think about children now whether we consider that they even have a world view that is truly theirs. Isn't their world view just what they glean from us? Aren't we, their parents, their teachers, their adult role models, the people who pass on a world view to them? Orwell's quotation suggests an agency that children have, an awareness they have about the world around them and importantly their role in it. Beyond that, these childhood views can be so strong and legitimate that they can be acted upon in adulthood.
I wonder also how many of us have been driven by such childhood world views. How much of what we have achieved as adults we had thought about during our childhood. How much self awareness we had during our childhood about what we could or should do in the future. Whether this was nurtured and encouraged, or dismissed, or worse still ridiculed by those around us? I wonder what it takes to be able to fulfill those childhood expectations and hopes? Is it simply determination or does it take something more? A bit of luck perhaps, a support network or opportunities that we notice and take?
So perhaps there's two lessons we could take from Orwell. We could look at children differently. We could encourage them to have a world view, to share it with us and begin to work on it. Childhood after all is about the here and now as much as the future. The more we listen to children the more we will learn from them. The second lesson is about ourselves and a consideration of what our world view might have been as a child. Perhaps we might spend some time reflecting and reminding ourselves about our hopes and dreams as children. We might get the chance yet to draw on those childhood views and, like Orwell, in so doing not abandon them.