New Year’s Resolutions

[series-miru]
Dear Miru,

DSC04732Three days ago, you turned one year old. We had a great time in Luxemburg, together with our couchsurfing hosts and their wonderful children, who gave you a cake with one candle. From there, we traveled to the Morvan in France, where your parents are doing helpx for the first time. It’s very quiet here, and we feel good. It has been a good start of the year. Of course, also your father made some New Year’s Resolutions.

In 2014, I want to write more, I hope that we find a good place for us to live while doing meaningful things, I hope that spirit I carried in me, the spirit that made me journey the world, will visit us again. I want to think good thoughts, healthy thoughts, and carve them into words.

You are part of the future, Miru. You will walk in this year, and say many words, you will play with other children, dance, swim, learn how to do many daily things. You’ll get more teeth and sing, you’ll explore that world we put you in.

I don’t have much inspiration today, and miss the time when I was writing all through the night, producing words and sentences that tumbled in my mind and appeared effortlessly on the paper in front of me. Perhaps that belongs to the past, and I have become someone else. It’s nice that we can become someone else.

People can change, or at least they can change their habits. I put some hope in that. Because when people change a small habit, and another one, they get into the habit of changing their habits, and their horizons could broaden, they could get more audacious, and change for the better. We can get rid of bad habits, or keep engrained habits in check.

I am deleting more words than I write. Perhaps it’s because the language has grown foreign to me. My mind is much weaker than I imagine it once was. I don’t understand things anymore. I’m quite happy, and confident that we’ll make it. If I have new ideas in 2014, I’ll write about them. It’s nice to write about ideas, in our minds they are like things, but invisible things. I like to describe them because that’s how you share them, and you can share them as often as you like.

I stop writing now. Love you.

New Year’s Resolutions was originally published on Meandering home

Sharing

Let me come on with an attitude and say I’ll debunk a myth today. Inspired once again by our baby daughter Miru, I started questioning the common belief that babies don’t share. A quick look-up on the BrinPage machine (i.e. Google) confirmed that this is indeed what our experts think.

Why? Because “So basically what I’m saying is that there’s no chance on earth than an 8-month-old should be able to share. A child that age isn’t even remotely close to being able to understand the concept.”

Because they don’t have the concept.

Fair enough, but what about tribal people whbonobo-food-sharing_0o seem to share the fruit of their land as a matter of course, naturally, people who haven’t developed the conceptual tokens of Western grammar to express the concept of “I” am sharing “this” with “you”. And what about animals? Bonobos have been observed to share food with strangers.
(the finding of the Duke University experiment is very interesting, so I decided to share it here, however I the sight of the metal cage makes me sad, and I do not endorse it)

 

Beyond the concept

So, what if sharing doesn’t really depend on the ability to “understand the concept”? What if it lies deeper within us? What if the assumption that the need to master a highly sophisticated conceptual framework in order to share is so obviously preposterous that we don’t even notice. Of course, sharing is the most natural thing to do. From an evolutionary perspective, sharing has many advantages, from simple group survival to social bonding.

I’m sure there have been many thinkers before me, who played with the same idea, but it’s too late to look them up now. We need to learn from the cute bonobo’s and immediately acquire their innate kindness to strangers because it will be a crucial tool in the near future for the survival of our bipedal primate species. Besides, it’s almost 5 am.

I think we need to look at sharing at face value, without making the assumption that the infant primate is for example programmed to be selfish, that all its endeavors can be reduced to the most pressing one: the literal incorporation of food into its body. Perhaps there are other instincts that can’t be reduced to the “selfish” one of taking from one’s surroundings the energy to survive. Who knows?

Body schema

What if we take the idea of a “body schema” and ask if the bodies of others (siblings, parents) could be a part of that? Why not? We are still talking about the pre-conceptual infant who allegedly isn’t able to share. The internal landscape of her “body schema” could as well include extremities and organs that are not connected to her brain by direct neuronal links, but rather by the empathic perception of her relatives. There’s nothing esoteric about that. Sure, this “empathic perception” is “mere” instinct, but that doesn’t disqualify it. It is what it is: emotional attachment and connectedness.

I believe that my mouth might be part of Miru’s extended body schema. When she is eating a piece of fruit (usually a plum or a peach), and I smile at her and open my mouth. At ten months, she puts the fruit straight into my mouth. She does this with the greatest precision you can expect given her still developing hand-eye coördination. Perhaps she doesn’t have the concept of her “own mouth” either. She just puts the fruit in the nearest mouth available because she has just mastered the link food-mouth. “But that’s not sharing”, certain scientists, who seem to be on a mission to disenchant the world, would say. “That’s mere instinct.”

Does it matter? Come on, what if we just share in silence, and develop those concepts post hoc, when some journalist with some sense of style wishes to write about it? We, as humanity, had a rough childhood full of violence. We were killing each other even before we had a concept of self and other. When we grew up, we developed all the concepts we liked. We could “prove” human nature to be whatever we liked. Hurrah! Which concepts have survived the longest, which notions had the strongest impact, or: which grammar does best support the dominant economic system? There you go. Babies don’t share. Because you need a concept for that. And we need the concept of concepts to tell ourselves that human nature is whatever we find convenient.

Sharing was originally published on Meandering home

Kiekeboe

[series-miru]
The last episode of this series that I’m writing for my daughter appeared many months ago. This is not because there was nothing interesting in between, but because I couldn’t find the time and motivation to write. We have been traveling, and had some bureaucratic issues to take care of regarding our simultaneous “legal” existance in one locality. Let me say no more than that it’s an adequate source of revolutionary vitamins.

Miru isn’t concerned with any of this, she is just starting to explore and win her world, and you can imagine what a joy that is to see. As a father, I’m thankful.

We often play peek-a-boo, usually by covering my own eyes with my hand, or hiding behind the door and then suddenly remove the hand and say “kiekeboe”, the Dutch version (I speak Dutch to her). A few days ago, I took this to a next level and put a towel over her face. After a little while, she had learned to remove it and the moment she had accomplished this novel task, I yelled, of course, “kiekeboe!”

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I feel tired, the words don’t come the way I want them too, but that’s the beauty and the healing power of language. We, or at least that part of us that engages in linguistic exchange, are written, the words, experienced through a hazy midnight brain like I experience them now, have a certain materiality, a life of their own, and they decide what this mind is thinking. They are part of a web of associations, and it is not our mind that is navigating that web, but some unconscious processes string the words together – all our minds do in this state is comparable to genetic aberrations, gene mutations resulting in new strands of DNA and new experimental word strings, it’s all in vain, I studied philosophy without really having the kind of mind that it takes, and the kind of interest in conceptual cleanliness that I do respect very much and that will be the seed of many revolutions – I don’t have a comfortable sitting position and my neck hurts, my table is too high, and my eyes are closing – having words as friends, mute but patient, playing, underlining the importance of play, leveraging play because it means salvation, deliverance; we need to play our existence here so there will be room to overcome the deadly consequences of the excesses of our species seriousness but this is not a time to think, I have closed my eyes so I can’t see the words appear on the screen in front of me. my brain exists for what to be a messenger, but of what? is there anything I could write here that doesn’t reek of a sectarian brainwash, of mental manipulation, and isn’t the “system” precisely that kind of mental manipulation where the illusion of freedom is optimized, the systemic quality of humankind in its current form where most people can act as individuals because there is exactly enough of the mental cancer inside them, there is enough advertisement and peer pressure to make it all function, the world of the cubicle is optimized slave labor there is nothing more efficient than moving the slave driver inside the heads of the oppressed, than taking away the only thing a slave could fight for and colonize that very word: freedom, my eyes are closed still and I feel a little bit like Ray Charles, of course, I play more dissonnants and comparing isn’t always right, but I have this image in my head of Ray bending over a piano with so much love, moving his head and smiling. Such is our relation to what we are expressing my friends let us not take ourselves too seriously, we are here, we live in the same time on the same planet I am a very practical mind I don’t think the “waking up” will be some sort of mass hysteria with magical handshakes between the Jews and the Palestinians, but of course it will help when the inevitable memes of goodness, of harmony, stewardship, sisterhood, sustainability, everything that could only be criticized because it is boring – which criticism we can now readily rebuke by pointing out that we are moving closer and closer to a live-and-dead situation creating a unique challenge for our species that will take away the very conditions that allow you to think boredom and here we are midnight has passed another day of virtual reality in the big city has begun no, my mind is functional it is serving other purposes than myself yet it is not enslaved, the freedom we mean is literally there, it is what we mean you want more freedom give yourself more fantasy but also, and against Sartre, we mean as earthlings we need physical freedom our own garden and the absence from the mind of voices speaking from a different elevation than our own.

Miru will start to talk soon, and I promise myself to observe and write about that.

Kiekeboe was originally published on Meandering home