“What do you do with an idea?” -Kobi Yamada
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.” -T. S. Eliot
Yamada’s beautiful children’s book, What Do You Do With An Idea?, asks a simple question. At the end of the story, some 30 pages later, it gives us an answer. It’s not a surprising answer. It’s not an answer that no one else has ever proposed. But it’s a useful thought, and an important reminder. Yamada’s genius isn’t in the answer itself, but in the pages of the adventure, when he gets us ready to listen to it.
I think we have what we need right here. Our task, our challenge, is to learn to use it (and not to use it). To learn how to balance on the edge of a moment, feeling both pride and respect, ambition and peace. To learn how to knock the spark from a flint, and when to light a fire–and when not to light a fire. We are here. We keep journeying, and in journeying we come back to ourselves, to each other, to our family and the earth that holds all the life we know.
It’s not that children know everything. They’re often mean. They’re often impatient and unkind. But just as they are unkind, they are kind. Just as they are afraid, they are brave. Just as they are disengaged, they are loving. We thought the ocean would wash over us, and it does. We thought the light of everything would dazzle our eyes, and it does. We thought the wind of everything would push us, and it does. And then, if we keep going, if we explore (by running and by standing still to listen), we learn that the waves can support us. The dazzling stars can guide us. The powerful winds can carry us. There are knots in our hearts, but all rigging needs some knots, and we set sail. We begin amid everything. We return, we arrive, as part of everything.
When we live the story with all our minds and all our hearts, then by the last page we’re ready to hear what would have only been words at the beginning.