As we are in the newborn season again, Twinkle Twinkle has become a part of our nightly routine either sung by our seven and four-year-old or hummed in the wee hours of the morning. As I was humming the tune, I was struck by the line “up above the world so high.” My thoughts, already a bit scattered from postpartum life, began to wonder, why is the world so high and not the stars or the moon so high?
The lyrics we sing today were written by the British author Jane Taylor and included in a book of nursery rhymes in 1806 before they were ever set to music, but we don’t know much about why or how the words came to her. Was she trying to encourage us all to look up and see how big the world truly is? Was she trying to reveal an existential truth that the world is not really on earth but our understanding of how small we are in the universe?
Or maybe she, too, was a mother of a newborn looking for soothing words during the wee hours of the morning. Maybe as she rocked and shushed her newborn she contemplated what really is most important in this life. Maybe she began to understand, like I am learning again, that the world is truly the universe and the stars and the moon. We are but small creatures in the great cosmos trying to care for new life and each other. And perhaps this is the most important work we can do on earth because it is the very thing that reminds us that up above us and around us and among us the world is so high and full of potential.