Sunday, 3 November 2013

Mad Myth Sunday - Babies

Babies squirm.  Watch a newborn and you will see it make a whole host of senseless bodily movements.  A newborn cannot focus its eyes, it cannot consciously control its muscles.  As it wildly tries to make sense of the liquidless environment of vibrant sights and varied smells it has been cast into, its brain shoots impules down every nerve.  Without the ability to parse its surroundings into individuals sights, sounds and events, the baby has only one sense, a protovaluation of good and bad, the decision of whether the sum of its situation is satisfactory.  To go with its one sense, the baby has one action, it can scream.
What is the worth of screaming?  A screaming baby effects rapid change its environment; an environment dominated by its parents.  The new parents are flustered because they cannot tell what the baby wants.  They thing in adult words.  The baby wants to be fed or it wants to be changed.  The baby is cold or too warm.  The baby does not want to wear a hat or it wants to wear a hat.  The baby wants to be tightly swaddled or it wants to flail.  The baby wants to be rocked this way or it wants to be rocked that way.
But for all of its sound, the baby is silent on these issues.  It does not tell its parents which of these it wants - not because it cannot speak - but because it wants none of these things.  The baby, if it wants, wants the wrong it is experiencing to be righted.
So the parents try everything and anything.  Sometimes their actions are guided by reason - we have not fed the baby for a few hours, try feeding - sometimes by expediency - it is easier to rock the baby than to change it, try rocking first.  By persistence and luck the parents satisfy the baby's sense of right and wrong and there is quiet again.
The parents were once babies, and the baby may one day be a parent.  Each party has played or will play the opposite role.  So how does a thing that screams when it is bad become a thing that weighs reason and expediency to resolve a crisis?  We underestimate this difference so that we can continue to marvel at the difference between our children dumb, flat universe that they arose from.

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