b Papa Dog's Blog: The Struggle to Speak Freely

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Struggle to Speak Freely

Charles is visiting. Already a curmudgeonly old man at twenty when we first met him, he seems to have mellowed considerably at 26. This is his first time in town since Baby Dog was born, and he says our blogs have given him a new appreciation of children. For that alone I guess we’ve rendered some sort of public service.

We got talking a little bit about the development of consciousness and how having a baby is a wonderful opportunity to observe how the most basic kinds of learning take place. I remember last time Ambrose was down here saying something to him about Baby Dog having started out as a lump of meat that screamed. That’s putting it brutally of course, but not exactly inaccurately. I loved the little lump of meat with all the power at my disposal, but it was pretty inescapable that her level of awareness was pretty limited. She could cry and eat and sleep and poop, and that was pretty much the extent of it. Now we have a little girl who looks a new person in the eye with a penetrating gaze, undeniably connecting, in that way described by the robot guy in Fast, Cheap & Out of Control: “I know that you are. You know that I am.” In the last month she’s learned not just to eat solid foods but to feed them to herself. We’ve been able to watch her master, step by step, the act of getting a single Cheerio from her highchair tray into her mouth, all by herself. She quickly figured out how to pick them up, but ran into trouble when trying to get them from hand to mouth; she’d open her fist and gravity would take its course. She experimented. She identified the problem and adapted to achieve a solution. She still ends up sitting on more Cheerios than she eats, but more and more are making their way into her mouth, and she really seems all the more delighted to be eating having done it by herself. She has moved from a vocabulary made up entirely of cries to laughing and cooing and babbling and – okay, this is kind of strange, but panting. On what seems a daily basis she’s adding consonants to her repertoire, having debuted both dadadadada and mamamamama in the last week and a half. She’s forming complex strings of syllables, and though there’s no discernable meaning to most of what she says, its clear that such meaning isn’t long in the offing. I can’t tell you how excited I am at the prospect of having conversations with her that don’t consist entirely of me describing what I’m doing or telling her what a pretty girl she is or how wet her diaper has become. Her skills at locomotion aren’t quite as far along as they might be – not unusual in a larger baby – but still, she’s come a long long way. She can sit up quite well, though she’ll pitch over to one side as soon as she spots something to reach for. She can roll over from front to back or back to front. She’s not ready to crawl yet, but it’s easy to see that’s coming. She does something that’s almost crawling on her Gymini. She’ll push herself along with her hands, trying to get something that’s out of reach, and end up rotating on her stomach like a minute hand. It’s just going to take one little intuitive leap for her to turn that into linear (not necessarily forward) motion.

How far we’ve come. And how far yet to go.

In other struggles: This is Free Mojtaba and Arash Day in the blogosphere. We have here potentially the most thoroughly democratizing forum for communication in the history of the human race, where we can all have our say about the sacred, the profane, the profound, and the mundane. Naturally, that’s a threat to ayatollahs, just as it’s a threat to commissars and corporate crooks and plutocrats and prigs. Its up to us to guard this weird sprawling mess of free expression before it’s quashed or banned or co-opted or neutered. Let’s see if, at least for today, we can all stick together on this.


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