Musings On Invulnerability

By | Monday, May 20, 2013 Leave a Comment
Last night, I went to dinner at a Mexican place along a pretty busy, urban street. Small place, but good food. We're sitting there eating and the S.O. gets this quizical look on her face. I follow her gaze out the window to see this child of maybe 3 or 4 wearing red shorts and a Superman emblem tank top standing by himself on the sidewalk. In the second or so it took me to realize that this child was completely by himself, he darted out across three or four lanes of traffic to the other side of the street. (Spoiler: he made it to the other side safely.) As he was crossing, there was fortunately a bit of a lull in traffic, but there was one guy who had to slam on his breaks pretty hard. And simultaneous to all this, there comes this loud shriek from inside the restaurant and this woman goes dashing out the front door and into the street.

This lady (presumably the child's mother) actually got closer to being in an accident than the kid. But she grabbed him on the other side of the street and dragged him back to the front door of the restaurant where, by this time, a man (presumably the father) was waiting, holding the hand of another child of maybe 5 or 6 years. There was a brief discussion between the two adults, and Dad stormed off dragging the two kids, while Mom went back inside. She left again shortly after, so I'm guessing she just paid their bill.

The child who ran into the street was alright when I last saw him, although I suspect his butt was considerably more tender by the time he went to bed.

What struck me was the Superman shirt. The child was young enough that he might not have really had a firm grasp on Superman yet. Maybe he recognized and responded to the character from cartoons or games or something, but he certainly was too young to understand what invulnerability means. Death is just too abstract a concept for that age group. They're still learning how their bodies work and respond to external stimuli. They're just getting to an age where they begin to understand that grabbing a hot pan will burn you, and a snarling dog can bite, and all those early life lessons that naievete forces us to learn.

But, in a weird way, that very ignorance made him invulnerable. Yes, if he got hit by an oncoming car, it would have ended tragically, but he didn't know that. He stepped into the street fearing absolutely nothing, because he had no reason to think his life was in any danger. He had no concept that his life could end, no concept that the life he's experiencing is finite. And, naturally, he had no clue that the big S on his chest implied his sense of invulnerability.

That changes as we get older. Although we still often feel invincible well into adolesence, we can at least begin to appreciate what death is, even if we don't really understand it. But the child in the Superman shirt? His complete ignorance of death makes him as invulnerable as Superman.
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