——-I was in high school with Katie Kinsky, and so I got a real sentimental kick out of knowing she was reading my (virulent) blogging of late, as I issue it here in this unscheduled, rickety fashion. Her comment on an earlier post, entitled Petulant, was nicely pointed: it sent me searching for Judgement and Reasoning in the Child by early 20th century French psychologist Jean Piaget. Katie’s comment, packed with insight, paradox, and an enticing originality, showing she had maintained that flexibility of mind we shared, back then in those halcyon, threatening, high school days, needed explication–I had to get the book she said was her favorite. But hey, we are the children, relative to Piaget at least!, and I figured Katie Kinsky had Piaget figured out, before she wrote: “The child has to develop the notion of one perspective, which is the sine qua non of all ideas of one, shared reality that holds truth and belief. It is not innate. That is why we all revere early childhood gestalts. The state of no fixed perspective continues in our sleeping dreams. Dreams do not hold truth, and for that we are grateful. Truth is a bridle.”
——-So, these days, when I am writing away, days which are insensibly passing, you have to browse in used bookshops for many classic things–because, obviously, classic authors are not necessarily in print, their ideas are in our minds like by osmosis I guess and we do not need to consult them, for we are modern, and the modern is absorbent, the child is a sponge to begin with, and bookstores themselves are soon no longer necessary. Ecstatically, I found the sought after item at Greenwood Books downtown–the lady there is pretty much on the same wave length. Now I am ready to respond to Katie’s comment, having read the one book and dipped into another. Alas, the subject expands in all directions. One first thinks they can be an adult about such things, and then is embarrassed by the entire procedure, the adventure I would call it. I still think I am in high school, and bridle at the suggestion that I have left it behind, and learning anything at all. Because everyone is a child! Gets to be a child, and a teenager too. That is more certain than everyone must die–but now we are really drifting.
——-Jean Piaget begins with a baldly stated premise that the child is egocentric. Good news!, which many take to mean simply that the child is self-centered. Consequently, as the child learns the mundane adult world he becomes socialised, and this society of dullards, I mean other people, he learns to navigate, scheme within, fend for himself, and sometimes even share. But this is backwards, folks! Jean Piaget doesn’t say that at all. He says “the child is egocentric in that he thinks for himself without troubling to make himself understood, nor to place himself at the other persons point of view.” The child is better described as precisely: not egocentric–by default. The question is, why does the child not trouble to make himself understood? I was sitting in classrooms after classrooms . . . The child assumes a world of other people; if he learns anything, it is how to become egocentric from the point of view of adults, in other words, he learns a difficult truth: that he has a self. Things then begin to accrue to that self.
——-The psychologist’s own painstaking research, in which he studies and interviews children themselves (with all sorts of clever techniques!) shows the child starts out in a psychological plurality–in fact, a fairly delirious multitude of people. already in the world. He appears to be way behind, and has to learn so much, it might be everything. He is swamped. But in another sense, the child is ahead of everyone, for he seems to have original insights about everything. This, this tireless questioning by children shows they assume themselves to be in a tight world of intimates, and they quickly get the idea they must learn to separate out an identity for themselves. So that what they learn is that they are one person. A shocking discovery, and bravery is required. And that is the truth. It is a process of adapting to the necessity of being egocentric, not the process of learning to abandon the egocentrism they are born with. What further gives this away is the discovery that the idea of one shared reality is not innate. This is what my high school friend Katie noticed was controlling my piece titled Petulant, in which I say that the idea of origins is learned, not innate. Indeed, fundamental ideas are learned from the world, they are thoughts about the world, closely tied to the revelatory thought that the world has a past, that one might remember life. This is learned from experience. But, go back, what is innate? What is innate is that multitude, that family, and those dialogues, and the language with which we speak in dreams that can almost be pulled from the dream. But you see it can’t be pulled from the dream, because reality is pulling us out, reigning us in. Truth is a bridle. And one keeps learning, after high school, just what a task master reality is. But if I can write something that my old friends from high school can read, I may have made a kind of bridge . . .
——-If a child got features from their parents, where were those characteristic features, those traits, before the child was born? Where were they stored? What route did they follow, if the child was just started up at birth? Where did the child come from, so ready, and so ready-made. I say, the child is in the middle of something when he is born, not at the beginning. All those traits, which blossom successively as the child grows, must have gone through a long invisible tunnel; and if we say they were carried by the chemistry in the blood, that is a gloss, just mystery complete. Science is description . . . The child is not new, he is old. Somehow he carries more of the past than those who are already in the world, so in that sense he is the oldest person, coming into the world through a channel of mystery. The human race is getting older, and the newest people come into the world prepared. I often feel like I am just getting started myself; I forget I didn’t just come in. I am still back in high school; is that pathetic? Or heroic? Who is not confused as to where they are, on the scales?
——-A person is born into a multitude and spends his life narrowing it down. Language represents, and expands this multiplicity, because it is transhistorical, of a material nature, more real than sinews, blood– and language is intimately tied in its structure to thought itself, rattling back even to the edge of dreams. But not over into to dreams, I think now: language rather belongs to consciousness. And I do not wish to conduct experiments like Piaget, or write like these postmodern philosophers, who tear apart language at the seams and study the grammar. For this is insane. What is missing in the insane, serious adults, is admitting the plurality that the child assume he exists within, as he begins, playing on the rug. I remember playing on the rug, and thinking” “I need more verbs!” All I had was one verb. It was “put”. Are you listening Piaget? I thought, I can’t keep using “put” for everything, “I need more verbs!” My consciousness screamed it, and I thought, “you better hold that back, boy,” and I had to consider whether everybody could hear me thinking. So far as he thinks back, such a child merges into a plurality of voices, a room where he is a listener.
——-Everyone was a child. There is a universal. What the child does not understand at first is just how incomparable life is; that is what he has to learn, why he wants constant explanations. The big discovery is that he is a person on his own. He does not start with himself, but finds himself among the others. He does not start out with the idea that he unique, and adapt to a disappointing reality in which he is only one among others, all equally downtrodden and dull. No, he starts out believing others are more real than him, totally interesting, knowledgeable, and he has to find himself among this group. He has to disassociate from the others, who are threatened, it seems, by dullness, for after all, what do they know? It is like they are all children! So they should, and must, cooperate with his exciting adventure of creating a self–it is vital that he, the discovered center of attention, thrive! He grows more and more vivid to himself and excited by the prospects of a unique existence. In fact the building of a self is the consummate unselfish activity. He is astonished if adults accuse him of being self-centered. In fact, he is doing it for them, and they should be pleased with his progress. The child sees the possibility of being self-propelled, but he does not arrive in life with it, he finds it in the world that is a novelty. Babies come into the world prepared from afar, supplied, they are not weak, they are not undeveloped, but they are vessels . . . .
………Of course this involves the idea that the world is teaching one successive truth, and not in fact leading one away from cozy dreams. Faced with the demands, the utterly unselfish demands of a self, many are going to become debilitated, and deliberating fools, and crazy gnostics. They would be free of existence, board a spaceship that has a flight back to the hopscotch of dreams, of other lives. But, there is no other life, if the child is to become so zealous . . . Yes, this is all from my singular point of view. For now, let’s just say in general that children come into the world prepared from afar, supplied; they are not weak, and they are singing, they are vessels. Hardy babies, bridling at the mere suggestion they are wrong. And do they become brittle, when put through the elements and the misunderstandings, of this world? What is this world? Now we ask!