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Piety, pizza and putting on airs

Perhaps the truth is we are already little children, like the Bible says we need to become, we just need to tip to that fact

Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu, left, and Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama share a lighter moment as they interact with children at the Tibetan Children’s Village School in Dharmsala, India, Thursday, April 23, 2015.
Ashwini Bhatia, Associated Press

I was early for a concert at the University of Utah, so to kill time I walked down to the Pie Pizzeria.

I enjoy the pizza at The Pie. I just don’t fit in, especially on Friday nights when the place is stocked with 20-somethings.

I found a spot in a corner where I wouldn’t stand out as a geezer, a spot where I could see everything in the room except the televised Utah Jazz game. So, instead, I watched all the little games going on at the tables around me.

One young woman was acting too animated by half, trying to impress her date with how fun she could be, I suspect.

Another young woman gamely held a tight smile while her boyfriend droned on and on and on. She looked like a little girl being forced to eat her cabbage.

And in the far corner, a young man was being loud and proud and profane — behaving like a boy reacting against the teaching of his parents.

I felt like an old monk in a novel I once read, a codger who said he got through the world by imagining everybody around him as they would have looked at age 10.

Even I was behaving like a kid. Here I sat beneath a police mug shot of Jimi Hendrix, ordering pepperoni pizza and playing detective, just as I did back in 1970.

We were all still kids — even the sophisticated set awaiting the concert over in Kingsbury Hall.

The Good Book says we should become as little as children.

Perhaps the truth is we are already little children, we just need to tip to that fact.

There’s a story about the Dalai Lama and Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu — lifetime friends — standing backstage before a high-minded fundraiser. All of a sudden, the Dalai Lama laughs, reaches over, and pretends to choke Bishop Tutu.

“Stop it!” Bishop Tutu said. “The cameras are on us. Act like a holy man!”

As I said, we’re all still kids.

So where does that leave us? If we never get out of the sandbox, if — in the words of E.A. Robinson — we’re all just children, trying to spell “God” with the wrong blocks — what’s the point?

I think the point depends on how we react to that fact. Does it make our journey here meaningless? Do we spin our wheels for 80 years?

Or, does realizing we’ll forever be children at heart allow us to put aside all our lofty posturing and posing, allow us to shelve the swagger and rebellion and, like that old monk, see ourselves and others as 10-year-olds?

Seeing yourself as a child lets you jettison all the cumbersome costumes and masks. It frees you up.

Is that what Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama had learned?

Had they come to realize that accepting yourself as a child lets you shuck off the phoniness, to scour the heart of clogs so something sweet and rich can flow through it?

I’m guessing that is the case. But I don’t know.

I’ll let you know — after I’m through conducting experiments from my pizza joint playpen near the U.

Email: jerjohn@deseretnews.com