Monday, November 16, 2009

Baby permits

If you came across a 70 year old man in a coffee shop playing with a baby rattle, you might give him a wide berth.  Mental illness can be found everywhere.  However, if there is a little baby sitting in a high chair in front of him, it is ok.  Playing with the rattle might be instructive for the baby, it might get the baby in a good mood, the smiles and goos of the old man might encourage the baby to talk.  Google had an article the other day that babies cry in their own language so maybe the old man is assisting the baby grow into society.
I think it is funny how babies’ mere presence gives adults permission to move, speak and act in ways that are usually not acceptable without the baby being there.  I am reminded of those kids’ days at the amusement park or the pool where an adult is not allowed in without a kid coming along.  Even in a nursing home, those who are quite elderly light up when they see a baby.  I think they are transported back to their own childhoods and to the days when they parented little kids.
When the baby holds its spoon out over the edge of the high chair tray, drops the spoon, and looks down at the spoon laying on the floor, we can see a mind not only learning about the constancy of gravity (yep, it happened again, just like before) but we can momentarily experience the oddity of gravity’s existence.  G.K. Chesterton wrote in “The Logic of Elfland” that a child of 7 is excited to be told that Tommy opened a door and saw a dragon but that a child of 3 is excited to be told that Tommy opened a door. 
That’s one of many things that babies do: allow us to be momentarily re-amazed that a door can be opened, that water comes out of the tap and flows across the countertop, that it snows. 

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