Baby-worship and the universe remade

by Kevin Birnbaum

This is my son, Leo. He turned four months old yesterday, and today the Church celebrates the feast of his namesake, Pope St. Leo the Great, who faced Attila the Hun unarmed and somehow got him to back down and turn around.

Look at that face, those eyes, and tell me Baby Leo couldn’t stop a ruthless warlord in his tracks, too.

In his essay “A Defence of Baby-Worship,” G.K. Chesterton wrote:

The most unfathomable schools and sages have never attained to the gravity which dwells in the eyes of a baby of three months old. It is the gravity of astonishment at the universe, and astonishment at the universe is not mysticism, but a transcendent common-sense. The fascination of children lies in this: that with each of them all things are remade, and the universe is put again upon its trial.

Within every baby’s head, Chesterton says, “there is a new universe, as new as it was on the seventh day of creation.”

But the baby isn’t the only one who must stare with astonishment at a new universe. For us new parents also, everything changes, everything is remade. And as we gaze at these miraculous, maddening little marvels which we’ve had some hand in making, it’s easy to imagine a whole cosmos contained in their wondering, wandering eyes.

Photo by Samantha Tribble.