Friday, December 30, 2016

Questions

Last Christmas Eve, Theo's mom was changing the lens on her professional camera. Curious, he picked up the lens and threw it. Nature teaches him about thrust and the force of gravity; he also learned about social consequences--his mother cried and his father whisked him away to his crib. Theo, still learning about the world, hopefully gained some important insight into acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

But not fast enough. Christmas Day, a day like no other in his one year old life, it was finally time for bed. In his mother's arms, his warm milk bottle in his hands, he said good night to all the family and guests. Still navigating the curiosities of this world, perhaps wondering about the consequences of last night's toss, he threw the bottle. It's glass and it made a horrific noise as it splattered milk in a fascinating pattern on the floor, the couch, and the cloth covered chair. He had everyone's attention too. And just look at those facial expressions he's never before seen! This time, his mother didn't cry, but once again, Theo was wisked to bed.

 The radio program is addressing the nature of babies, and even though they may appear to be non-thinking/non-processing blobs of mini-flesh and blood, in actuality, they are absorbing all the stimuli, movement, and details that surround them.  They are perpetual learning machines.

A baby sitting in its highchair throws food off the tray. She is testing gravity and human reactions. Things fall, mommies and daddies react. Ahhh, that baby thinks, when I drop my pancake Mommy gets up. To every action is a reaction. This is how we all learn.

For the past year, Ezra, now four, has amped up his learning in the form of questions. Not the quintessential "Why?" that drives parents bonkers, but he's been asking serious, scientific, thoughtful questions.

I've tried to keep track of them.

What is in eyeballs? What if I had 10,000 eyeballs? What happens if our house was only made of candy? What happens when a fly gets burnt? What happens to a fly's body when it dies? What are bridges made of? What is in light? What is stupid? Why do we burp? What is in hair?
When Margo (his baby sister), grows up will I have two moms?

He even has his own answers.

"What happens to us when we die?"

His mother asks, "What do you think?"

"We turn into bakers!"

Fortunately he has a mother who looks up images of eyeballs, artistic reproductions of the layers of skin (Mom it looks like cake!"), and talks to him about the anatomy of an eye and how there are nerves all over his body that communicate with one another and send messages to the brain. When his mother explains his nerves are like wires for electricity, he excitedly responds, "I have wires in my body?"

Ezra's curiosity and consequent questions take me back to my own childhood, when I too wanted answers to everything in the universe. I used to lay in bed at night caught in a vortex of confusion over one particular question: If God has always existed, who came before God? How did it all start? It had to start somewhere?!! After trying to resolve the ultimate mystery, exasperated, I would fall asleep....and wake the next morning with more questions.

As we age, we no longer have to throw a bottle to understand simple physics, but to continually grow, we must keep asking questions, keep investigating, keep finding the answers.

Today on our hike, we had a question: was George Washington born in America? What about the presidents following--John Adams, Thomas Jefferson? We should have known, but it has been a long time since we've studied details of American history.

What I like best is that we combined the two keys to youth: learning and exercise.