More often than not, the concept of fathoming any idea and form of spiritual and existential conviction for a child is unsurprisingly basic and basically unsurprising. However, as poet, playwright, short story writer, and novelist Langston Hughes chronicles, once when he was twelve, a particular visit to church shattered all sensibilities of devout spiritual naivety and caused him to cross over into a state of realization beyond his years then which he would carry thereafter—realization of faith of concept of God of possibly not being true at all.
As philosopher and poet George Santayana (2008) puts, “Wisdom comes by disillusionment,” which summarizes that certain childhood experience of a young Langston Hughes—wisdom, in many variety, which exponentially posed endless queries for a young mind (n. p. ). The experience brought forth many forms of disenchantment from the idea of a church and belief system, the credibility of the revival process, personal salvation from sin, and even the concept of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
A young Langston, in his unassuming state, has been well-oriented by his Aunt Reed about what to expect during a revival ceremony before his inadvertent enlightenment. He was told that he was to see a light as an indication that Jesus had come into his life which equivocally translates to personal salvation. As a young Langston (2003) recalls and stresses, “She said you could see and hear and feel Jesus in your soul. I believed her... So I sat there calmly in the hot, crowded church, waiting for Jesus to come to me” (n. . ). In every way, it was safe to assume that both parties and everyone else in attending the service-revival were expecting everything would go as a normal eventuality, but unfortunately, it did not. Evidently, during that fateful night, the young Langston waited for an empirical manifestation of Jesus Christ. Within him, the anticipation was built to its highest. Yet, only frustration, confusion, and even embarrassment led to his disillusionment and thus wisdom.
The young Langston may have considered the possibility of the animated demonstration of all faith, prayer, and song to having lost all its divine potency. He may also have considered later on that everything might have been staged, especially when all of the children, but him and another boy, have not been saved. Also, from the other boy, Westley, expressing a solution and rather reacting discreetly and violently at the same time seemed nonsense to him.
The young Langston’s personal definition of salvation then was sincerely expecting an appearance to be saved, not to be standing from the mourner’s bench and automatically being hailed as saved by those in attendance. In comparison to what he was expecting, the actual process just did not qualify as deliverance. He was expecting something more divine, miraculous even. As the young Langston was lost in translation and clouded by even more confusion, though in derailed hopes, he still simply wanted to wait for Jesus’ arrival.
As the long wait allowed only a stalemate outcome and time to stand still, the concern of salvation for a young Langston shifted to saving face in public. When he decided to be once and for all saved, those who were in attendance erupted in sheer praise and glee. All of which, he did not seem to simply appreciate the value, if any, because he was still tight holding to his personal understanding of what should have happen—a physical materialization of Christ. In every sense imaginable, for a child, a letdown of such proportions can only bring frustration and disappointment.
In all of this, the evidence of being ultimately disenchanted was the night after the revival-service, when a young Langston concluded that Jesus did not appear, neither to save nor help him. Thus, in all its simplicity, he bears wisdom to question, to wonder, and to consider the untraditional, the other side of things. In an early age, he was brought into a realm of possibilities all of which he can compare, contrast, choose to believe in or not, and all else in between.
Hughes, Langston. “Salvation.” Spiritwatch Ministries.1 September 2003. 27 January 2009. http://www.spiritwatch.org/firelangsave.htm.
Santayana, George. “George Santayana Quotes.”Famous-Proverbs.com. 2008. 28 January 2009 http://www.famous-proverbs.com/Santayana_Quotes.htm.