The power to experience beyond need

Yesterday Jay learned to gargle.  Or so it seems.  He’s been hearing me and Caroline do it for years (and yes, somehow, it’s suddenly years that the three of us have been together) and last night he finally staked his claim.

While we read books before bed he took pulls from his sippy cup and leaned his head back, one gargle and gulp and sip after another.  Even after we’d tucked him in he went on like that, pausing his gargling only for a moment to yell downstairs, “Daddy, tell Mama I know how to gargle.”

Jay’s newfound talent reminded me of a passage I read last week in the novel Gilead.  The narrator, an old midwestern preacher, recalls walking along an empty road at night with his father.  The part that stopped me comes at the end:

I can’t tell you, though, how I felt, walking along beside him that night, along that rutted road, through that empty world- what sweet strength I felt, in him, and in myself, and all around us.  I am glad I didn’t understand, because I have rarely felt joy like that, and assurance.  It was like one of those dreams where you’re filled with some extravagant feeling you might never have in life, it doesn’t matter what it is, even guilt or dread, and you learn from it what an amazing instrument you are, so to speak, what a power you have to experience beyond anything you might ever actually need.

I know what Jay was feeling last night, with the water bubbling with his own breath in his own small throat.  He was discovering himself as an instrument, with a power to experience in this world beyond anything he might ever actually need.