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Pickle Me This

July 25, 2009

Going to get a quart of mik with William Blake

“Part of the Romantic sensibility, a part we inevitably share at least a little, was to grieve over the loss of this childlike clarity and its replacement by the more mundane duties and obligations of adult life. Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; the things which we have seen, we now can see no more. It may seem that the Romantic view we are articulating sees ordinary adulthood as a loss, a falling off, only briefly stemmed by a few adult geniuses.

But that neglects the other half of the equation, the part that is our uniquely adult gift. In particular, when we take on the adult obligation of caring for children, we don’t give up the Romantic project, we participate in it. We participate simply by watching children. Think of some completely ordinary, boring, everyday walk, the couple of blocks to the local 7-Eleven store. Taking that same walk with a two-year old is like going to get a quart of milk with William Blake. The mundane street becomes a sort of circus. There are gates, gates that open one way and not another and that will swing back and forth if you push them just the right way. There are small walls you can walk on, very carefully. There are sewer lids that have fascinatingly regular patterns and scraps of brightly coloured pizza-delivery flyers. There are intriguing strangers to examine carefully from behind a protective parental leg. There is a veritable zoo of creatures, from tiny pill bugs and earthworms to the enormous excitement, or terror, of a real barking dog. The trip to 7-Eleven becomes a hundred times more interesting, even though, of course, it does take ten times as long. Watching children awakens our own continuing capacities for wonder and knowledge.”– from The Scientist in the Crib, Gopnik, Meltzoff and Kuhl

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