Thursday, March 02, 2006

Wisdom or Hooey: a Poll.

"Where am I? is the first demand the wailing infant makes of the world he arrives in. Calmed and comforted, you stop asking after a while, and are soon so adjusted to reality (an adult invention) that you forget the question."

--Peter Conrad, Behind the Mountain: Return to Tasmania (Poseidon Press, 1989)

19 comments:

Andy Laties said...

I doubt the psychologists would go with this theory of instant infant subject/object differentiation. I'd propose that Every Baby Is The Buddha (that is, the Vairocana Buddha=The Entire World).

ann said...

According to Erik Erikson, the real first question is "Who can I trust?"

LSPark said...

Hmmm. If I had to guess, I'd say the first question is, "What is this freaking stuff that has suddenly filled my lungs??!"

Roger Sutton said...

Andy, I'm not smart enough for that infant subject/object stuff. What do you mean?

I LOVE the Erikson quote--there are no babies in my life but there's a new puppy in our dog group and you can see her asking that question of all of us, dogs and humans alike.

The question reminds me of that creepy chapter in Mary Poppins, where John and Barbara (?) forget that they once talked to the birds.

Anonymous said...

Hooey and bad writing. (What's with the jump from third person to second?)


There's a wonderful recent novel by Nancy Reisman called The First Desire. The phrase refers, of course, to the infant (and older child's) bodily and eventual emotional desire for the mother.

Andy Laties said...

"Where am I?" suggests that there's a "where" (object) that's different from an "I" (subject). But without any experience of such distinctions surely the baby's sense is of a world-transformation, not a sudden Knowledge Of Dual Reality (subject/object). So I agree with Linda Sue that the first question is about a change in direct sensory experience, not about the sudden existence of some Outer Where-ever.

The trusting and desiring stuff also happens afterward. OK -- maybe five minutes after.

Andy

Gregory K. said...

See, now, I thought P.D. Eastman had already given the definitive answer to this. A baby's first thought: "are you my mother?"

Are you saying children's literature might sometimes takes liberties???? I'm shocked.

Andy Laties said...

What WAS I thinking?!

webshred said...

I think a baby's first thought has to be "What the @$!#? just happened?" And, if the bewildered look on George W's face is any indication, the question never really goes away.

Jane said...

My guess is sensory overload takes over--breath in lungs, bright lights, lack of mother's comforting heartbeat, someone holding him by the legs and pounding him on the back.

When does he/she have time to form any kind of question? Therefore webshred is closest.

Jane

rindambyers said...

You are all trying to answer the question instead of asking it anew for yourselves...isn't that the point, of the quote that we tend to stop asking the question as we grow into adults? Maybe, I reading something mystical into it..but that's what I caught...

I still ask "where am I" all the time, sometimes wondering, sometimes very desperately...sometimes joyfully...but you know, always asking...always looking at answers and then asking some more.....

Oooh! HOW I LOVE GOOD QUESTIONS LIKE THIS! Yeah!

rindambyers said...

P.S. I like the Erikson quote too.....another good question......

And the "reality (an adult invention)" part...LOVE it...love it, love it...

Andy Laties said...

Beautiful, and provocative, sure. But -- correct in some abstract way? Well--the quoted (1989) passage predates cyberspace, for instance. If I, the adult, am supposed to be forgetting to ask "Where am I?" -- well, this isn't the case. The fact that cyberspace has infected my daily "relaity" means that every day as I engage in email or research using the Web I puzzle over this question. Where am I right now? In cyberspace??

And I don't think cyberspace is any sort of "adult reality" created by Microsoft. Cyberspace isn't something "specific" or someplace "real".

As Cybercitizens, we generate the "world" the same way the baby creates the world: by experiencing it.

And really, the same way each "adult" creates the "real world" at large by experiencing it. So, I can't go with the idea that all "adults" experience the same "adult reality".

As Webshred suggests, anyway, let us all pray that each of us experiences a personal reality far far removed from that experienced by G.W.Bush. Perhaps collectively we can imagine him right into insubstantiality.

Andy

Andy Laties said...

I should alert you that I'm the guy who alarmed at least six children, aged 4 to 8, today by asking if the books they'd plunked onto the check-out counter were intended as my birthday presents.

Andy Laties said...

Oh wait! I do know where I am. I'm a figment of Roger's imagination. I'm in his head (and I wanna get out).

Roger Sutton said...

Don't let Andy fool you--he could sell children's books to Harold Bloom. (I should know, because both these distinguished gentlemen are part of MY reality, and I could wish them both six feet under the cornfield should I so choose. Danny's not here, Mrs. Torrance.

Roger Sutton said...

) Sorry.

Andy Laties said...

All such thoughts and intentions go into your Karmic Bank Account. Next life, you may be a character in THERE'S A WORM IN MY DIRT. (I'll certainly be there, anyway.)

Andy

Andy Laties said...

That would be, THERE'S A HAIR IN MY DIRT -- apologies to Gary Larsen.