Life in the Baby Zone
The Birth of Annamaria's Inner Journalist
Annamaria holds the spoon and waits impatiently for food to appear on its end. She examines it quizzically, then places it in her mouth. A long expectation of peas and pears with yogurt is followed by disappointment. She looks sadly up at us, wondering what went wrong.
As she matures from infant to toddler (the "twoddler" era, if you will), Annamaria is beginning to understand the rules which govern her new realm. She is slowly, if moistly, mastering the secrets of the Sippy Cup. She has learned that you can make unwanted sunhats disappear by pulling them off and throwing them out of your carriage. She has discovered that paper can be torn into bite-sized, easily swallowed pieces. (Ask me how I know this. On second thought, please don't... ).
Like her efforts at standing, these new skills represent her first stumbling steps out of the magical world of Just Because. She has begun to recognize the pattern underlying all the colors and sounds and smells around her: she is becoming initiated into the secrets of Cause and Effect. This is the stage where we start becoming active participants in our environment. We discover that we can shape our environment and that our actions have consequences. Our world rises out of the chaotic jumble of sensory impressions and stimuli and reveals its order to us.
This knowledge isn't just comforting and empowering -- it's vital if we are to survive as individuals and as a species! Because they lack that knowledge, infants and toddlers must be closely supervised. They do not understand why they shouldn't climb out windows, stick forks in electrical outlets or swallow windpipe-sized objects. As they mature we give them greater autonomy and greater responsibility. We trust them to take care of themselves and to make the appropriate choices. But alas, there are many ways that this process can go awry.
One of our great survival tools is our Inner Journalist. The Inner Journalist drives us to find the why, who, what, when, where and how of things which concern us. It impels us to find answers to our questions and solutions to our problems, to find reasons more satisfying than "feces happens."
But our Inner Journalist, like many other members of the profession, is sometimes lazy. Lacking enough data to reach an answer and dealing with pressing deadlines, it churns out copy which is simple, comforting and dangerously wrong. Reeling from the ravages of the Black Death, many Europeans concluded the Jews were responsible. (Nearly six centuries later a brutal war and subsequent economic collapse would lead many other Europeans to a similar conclusion). Crop failure, disease and assorted ills often led to witch hunts targeting poor widows, beggars, Rom ("Gypsy") migrants and others living on the fringes of medieval society. When we can't find a villain we'll often settle for a scapegoat on whom we can direct our anger.
Our Inner Journalists are often heedless of the familiar: they are inclined to take them for granted and assume that there's no story to be teased from their details. They are inclined to cherry-pick facts that fit their preconceptions and to ignore countervailing evidence. They sometimes act like Inner Lawyers, seeking to win arguments over finding the truth. And as they compile information about the chain of cause and effect, they may find their original errors greatly magnified in the process.
If Annamaria retains the curiosity she exhibits now, her Inner Journalist will be a force to be reckoned with. Like most of us she will likely err at times in distinguishing between fact and opinions -- especially strongly-held opinions, something I suspect she will possess in abundance. Should she follow her hunches and suspicions with the same unerring zeal that leads her off the edge of any elevated surface, she is bound to make great discoveries. And if that stubborn streak she's already exhibiting is any indication, she's not going to have the sort of Inner Journalist who gives in easily to stonewalling, obfuscation or disagreement.
But as she masters all these skills, I hope she also remembers logic's limitations. As she learns to question like a child and later adult, may she never forget her infant's smiling acceptance of an irrational world. May she always keep that happiness in the face of that which can only be experienced and not explained: may she always be at home in the place where reason ends and Mystery begins.
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