THE SPIRITUAL LIFE OF CHILDREN by Robert Coles
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THE SPIRITUAL LIFE OF CHILDREN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Children as seekers, as young pilgrims well aware that life is a finite journey and. . .anxious to make sense of it. . ."" That, in the words of Harvard psychiatrist Coles, is the image of children that shines through this extraordinary companion volume to his The Moral Lire of Children and The Political Lire of Children (both 1985). And it's not only children who reveal themselves as seekers here. What ultimately is so impressive about this ground-breaking work, what infuses it with a profundity of feeling, is Coles's interwoven, self-critical account of his own search to reconcile spirituality to psychoanalysis, to yoke the youthful spiritual articulations granted him by children to his own adult, secularly trained understanding. Coles bookends with this search, beginning with a questioning and defense of the book's very subject and concluding with memories of one of his own spiritual mentors, Catholic Worker Dorothy Day, And in between, the children talk: rich, poor, healthy, dying, black, white, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Native American, even atheist and agnostic (also thirsty for meaning), responding, sometimes over the course of years, to Coles's questions--""Do you think [God] has different moods?""; ""What [does] hell look like?""--and to his requests to draw God and other spiritualities (included are 16 full-color pages of these ""representations,"" crude but emotionally charged). As a seeker, Cole is reluctant to draw conclusions, quantifiable answers, but he does find, besides recurrent astonishment at the depth and heat of children's spiritual (not necessarily religious) needs and insights, that most Christian children root their search in the soul-soil of ""salvation,"" Muslim children in ""surrender,"" Jewish children in ""righteousness""--and that all ""try to understand not only what is happening to them but why."" Neither a study nor a guide, but an exploration: open-eyed, courageous, sometimes meandering, full of surprises and wonder.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1990
ISBN: 0395599237
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin