Friday, December 30, 2016

Questions: The Fountain of Youth

On Christmas Eve, Theo's mom is changing the lens on her professional camera. Curious, he picks it up and throws it. Nature teaches him about thrust and the force of gravity; he also learns about social consequences--his mother cries and his father whisks him away to his crib. Theo, still learning about the world, hopefully gains 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's finally time for bed. In his mother's arms, his warm milk bottle in his hands, he says 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 throws the bottle. It's glass and it makes a horrific noise as it splatters milk in a fascinating pattern on the floor, the couch, and the cloth covered chair. He has everyone's attention too. And just look at those facial expressions he's never before seen! This time, his mother doesn't cry, but once again, Theo is wisked to bed.

 The radio program is addressing the nature of babies, and even though they may appear to be non-thinking/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 is in hair?
When Margo (his baby sister), grows up I will have two moms: you and Margo? He can't conceive his own growing up (ha ha either can I).

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. His mother explained that his nerves were like wires for electricity which elicited great excitement, "I have wires in my body?"

He's asked what bridges are made of and what is in light. Even, "What is stupid?" or "Why do we burp?"

His questions have a serious side too, "Why do people die? Will I die when I get older? What happens to us after we die?" Which is the toughest question of all time, but to which he surprisingly had an answer, "We turn into bakers!"

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 learning and the learning comes from questioning, from the pursuit of knowledge.

Learning, along with activity and exercise, are the fountains of youth. So, I keep running and keep asking questions. The mystery I am trying to solve this week is why so many people applaud the UN vote abstaining by the US and why so many people criticize it. It's turning out to be as complicated and historical as the questions I had as a child about the beginning of time.