Devonshire House Experts’ Talks Series
The Story of Curious Emilia
By Georgiana Stefan, Oaks Teacher (Nursery School, age 3-4)
INTRODUCTION OF THE STORY
Howard Gardner is a famous developmental psychologist who formulated the theory of multiple intelligences.
As part of the theory, existential intelligence involves the ability to use our curiosity and intuition for understanding the world and the people around us.
Children who are high in this type of intelligence are critical thinkers and they are very keen to ask profound questions about the sense of life: “Where do we all come from?” “What is death?” “Why is there war in the world?” “What is real?”
They are also very interested in exploring nature and learning about other species and cultures.
Emilia, the hero in my story, is a deeply curious child, with a contemplative nature, compassionate, reflective, sensitive, emotional, with a rich imagination and high empathy levels. She has a strong sense of self, but also an intense emotional awareness, and dare I say, a bit of existential anxiety. Sound familiar? I am sure we can all name at least one child in our lives/classrooms who matches the description.
The bottom line is that there are many ways to be intelligent and this essential piece of information is embraced by teachers and educators in our everyday classroom environments, as this is an important aspect of the child’s individuality, and it should be nurtured appropriately.
THE STORY OF CURIOUS EMILIA
Ding! Ding! Diiiing! The cheerful school bell rings for dismissal. Emilia slowly gets up from her desk and with wide eyes of excitement, she makes her way to the teacher’s desk.
“As I mentioned at the beginning of the class, Emilia, today it’s your turn to take the Earth globe home. Remember, you’re responsible for taking care of it! Carry it home carefully, dust it off, don’t scratch or hit it, and most importantly, don’t forget to bring it back to school tomorrow!” the teacher says, smiling as she gracefully hands the globe to Emilia.
“I understand,” Emilia whispers, reaching out with excitement and embracing the clear blue shine of the globe, which now nestled against her chest.
“Take care!” the teacher adds, looking at her with piercing attention. “The whole world is in your hands now!”
With the globe held carefully in her arms, Emilia walks home with uncertain steps. The familiar path she was so used to now seems different, as if filled with obstacles. She even gets scared by the wind’s breeze and the rustling of leaves.
“Don’t worry, my beautiful Earth! I won’t let you go!” Emilia whispers. “I wonder if you can feel my heartbeat?” she says again, holding the globe even tighter to her chest.
That night, lying in bed and staring at the ceiling covered in phosphorescent stars, Emilia starts thinking about the globe entrusted to her. She turns on the bedside lamp and takes out her little journal from the drawer, the secret place where she sometimes reveals her thoughts.
“How strange,” she thinks, looking at the globe resting quietly on its stand, and begins to write. “How can the whole world fit in here? It’s incredible how such a small sphere can hold all of us. Hmmm… And we’re not cramped at all! There’s room for me, and for my Mom, and for my Dad, and for our house. And I’ve heard that even dinosaurs fit in here, but a long time ago. And they were huuuuge! And yet, they don’t exist anymore. Oh, but I found them once in a book. Will I disappear one day like them, and will someone find me in a book? Only in a book? Mom says I can’t disappear like that suddenly. First, I must grow old, like Grandma. That means, according to Mom, I must first live my whole life. I’m not exactly sure what that means. I think it means I must do a lot of things. But how will I know that I’ve truly lived my WHOLE life? What if I leave something unfinished and can’t do it anymore because I’ll already be like Grandma? Grandma says she can’t run like me anymore. She says she’s tired and weak. I must do everything I want before I run out of energy. But how? I’ll find out tomorrow, I must ask Mom. I really need to know!”
Slowly, sleep calms her explorer mind, and thoughts about the mysteries of life dissipate. But pressing questions sometimes find their way, like magic, beyond reality. And so it happens that Emilia is carried away into a truly… cosmic dream! Her precious globe rolls off its stand and suddenly becomes so light that it turns into a real blue hot air balloon. Emilia wakes up, tiny and curled up in the basket at the base of the Earth-balloon, which is tied to it with her own red hairbands, the ones with little hearts! She is fascinated by everything she sees! She’s flying! She’s in space, like rockets! She’s high up, looking at the endless sky. She could contemplate the entire cosmos, just as she had always wished!
“Wow! Wow! Wow!”
“I’m glad you like it!”
Emilia held onto the elastic ropes, looked up, and saw that the voice belonged to the very Earth itself, which now had a serene, friendly face with gentle eyes that looked at her with joy and affection.
“My dear Earth! How much I’ve longed to explore the Universe! Take me, take me everywhere and tell me everything!”
“I know, my dear child! But allow me to introduce myself! I am the Earth Spirit. I have listened to your thoughts and the questions that have been gnawing at your curiosity, and I thought of bringing you here to talk about… everything, about… life!
“Tell me, Spirit, how come we exist? And who are we, actually? And why weren’t we born on a star?”
“Oh, stars cannot host humans, they have a different purpose in the Universe. Just like humans, each has their own role. Everything that surrounds us originated from a magnificent explosion, and after everything settled down, slowly but surely, humans emerged from stellar dust. It was a natural evolution, taking a very long time. The Universe is not young at all, and neither am I, for that matter.”
“Are you old, like grandparents are? My grandma is very old…”
“Oh, we are so old that you can’t even imagine!”
The Earth Spirit gently carried Emilia among the stars and planets, in complete darkness yet still luminous, in total silence yet filled with whispers.
“You know, sometimes I don’t have very happy days at school”, said Emilia. “Sometimes I daydream a lot, with my eyes wide open. One time, the teacher saw me sighing next to a dried flower in a pot in the classroom and asked why I was looking at it like that, as if I had never seen a dead flower before. I told her that I had, but I was wondering if maybe that flower had withered out of sadness because no one had smiled at it. The teacher looked at me surprised. She said that I would become a philosopher when I grow up. But honestly, Spirit, maybe the flower didn’t have enough happiness, and that’s why it withered. We all watered it, one by one, almost every day.”
“Do you think happiness is so important?”
“Well, how can it not be? That’s what I believe, yes! I realized that when people are happy, they are kinder to each other. When they are upset, on the other hand, they don’t speak nicely to others and prefer to be alone. And that, I think, is the true meaning of happiness. To bring people together. I haven’t seen a bunch of people getting together and still being upset. When we are all gathered at home, it’s a big celebration!”
“It’s an interesting thing”, smiled the Earth Spirit. “And what about suffering, what do you think it’s for?”
“I’ve thought about that too… Many times. And I believe it’s related to what my Mom told me, that I have to live my WHOLE life before I become old. And I think that WHOLE means feeling everything in my heart, joys, and sorrows. I haven’t figured out yet why some people suffer so much that it hurts them… I think those people are very strong, they have a heart of steel, and they can overcome whatever troubles them. They are like the superheroes in cartoons!”
“What you say is true. Life has a little bit of everything, and people experience a lot of things, each in their own way.”
“But why aren’t we all the same? In appearance, in our soul? Why are we different?”
“Because that’s what makes the world more beautiful. Do you know why? Think about a garden full of just roses. Many, many roses. Now, think about another garden, but SURPRISEEEE! This time, in addition to roses, there are also chrysanthemums, tulips, snowdrops, lilies, pansies, orchids, daffodils, and many more! Now, Emilia, please close your eyes and imagine both gardens as vividly as you can. Close your eyes! Come on, be brave, close them!”
(Pssssst! Pssssst! Hey, you, who are reading to our story right now! Close your eyes too! Imagine the two gardens while counting slowly up to ten. When you reach ten, you can open your eyes. Come on, hurry! Close them tight and start counting! Are you ready? Start!)
… ten seconds later…
“Well, which garden do you find more beautiful?” curiously asked the Earth Spirit.
“The one filled with all the flowers,” Emilia whispered meditatively.
(But to you, dear reader, which one did you like more?)
“It’s more cheerful, more colorful, more fragrant!”
“Well, see? It’s the same with people! The world wouldn’t be as beautiful if everyone was the same. Everyone is unique in their own way. Some like music and dance, others are athletes, some are skilled painters or maybe builders, while others are nature lovers and always curious about their purpose in the world… those are just like you, my little Emilia.”
“Like a philosopher, as the teacher said?” asked Emilia in amazement.
“Exactly like that,” said the Spirit. “Never lose this gift, my dear Emilia! Never!”
“Which gift?” Emilia asked with surprise.
“Your most precious gift: the gift of questioning. Because only that will lead you to the happiness you’ve been looking for.”
When Emilia woke up from her cosmic dream, she still carried the Earth Spirit’s last words in her mind. In the morning, the globe sat quietly on the nightstand, faceless and voiceless, without any traces of cosmic adventure on its surface. With the dream still fresh in her mind, Emilia took out her journal and continued last night’s lines:
“You are you and I am me,
Different we will always be.
But on Earth we live together,
Hopefully, happy forever!”
Interested in Forest School at Devonshire House? Come and meet us at one of our Open Mornings and we will be happy to answer your questions.