11 December 2011

Mind and body and children

Some will tell you that there's no such thing as body, that everything is an illusion created by the mind.

Others will tell you that the mind is simply an extended string of biochemical processes and reactions.  They're probably correct, but being verifiably, scientifically correct isn't always very useful when it comes to broader questions of humanity.

We need to establish and re-establish the lines of communication between our mind and our body.  We need to listen to our body when it tells us that it hurts, and to take that pain seriously.  We need to be able to recognize the hungering of a pained mind as something completely different from the hunger pangs of an empty stomach. We need to know enough of ourselves to know when our words are spoken with truth, and to be able to untangle the knots of our immediate reactions and annoyances when our words are just knee-jerk reactions to what is happening around us.

I'm thinking more and more of how I'm about to enter into a relationship with my daughter, with this little human being who, for the first year or so, doesn't have this distinction.  Dealing with children is difficult, and more and more people find themselves unable or unwilling to do so.  The society that I grew up in is one that isolates itself more and more from small children and lives more and more in the realm of adulthood.  It is a world of the mind, and it cultivates an extremely odd relationship with the body.  In that world, the body is to be controlled wholly by the mind, and the mark of self-control and personal success is a body that has been sculpted and toned to match the intensity of the mind.

Children are treated in the same way as flabby bodies- banished from restaurants, scowled at by onlookers in the grocery store, treated as a constant reminder that the minds which we treasure so dearly are all too often controlled by a body run amok.  They are a constant reminder to people who believe that they can control every moment of their existence that they can't, and children's inability to control themselves is a constant display of the basic difficulties of the human experience.

Internal and external, practice and example. We need both, a speaking to and a listening to what is going on inside of our bodies and our minds, a willingness to try and the experience of helping those who can't really try yet, if we really want to try to live a good life.

1 comment:

  1. This reminded me of my cousin who has an 8 month old baby boy. He is teething, growing, and learning how to get attention from anyone around him. He cries for all three reasons and as I watch my cousin try to feed him when his gums hurt, and applying teething gel when he's hungry I wonder, 'will she ever know the difference?' or will it be too late and he will be talking and walking by then. At that point, will he cry for the simple fact that it alerts her and it gets her attention for his wants and not his needs.

    I also wonder if it is wise to step in and risk her feeling inadequate. Instead, I pat her on the back and I take the baby with a concern for her not him and let her take a nap. After all, he just needed a diaper change.