Michael Mendizza

Writer, Filmmaker

But We Forget…


Learning and Education, Parenting

Carly Elizabeth is eight months young and doing exactly what she is destined to do, learning explosively every moment. This month has been one breakthrough after another. Tossing one hip over the other. Rolling onto her tummy. That was big. Then, pushing with her arms backwards to sit upright. From there it was getting her knees under, butt up. Finally she pushed one arm out and then the opposite knee, and she was off. ‘Huston, we are in orbit.’ Life changing.

There is no attention deficit here. Carly is moving, touching, reaching every second. Ops! Watch the plant, the kitty, no, the banana. That was only two weeks ago. What was so difficult and frustrating is now routine. Carly practices her moves like Ben Hogan hit golf balls or Michael Jordan shot hoops, just to see what they could do. Self-imposed conflict and resistance seems curiously absent. There she goes again. Today she is exploring ‘up,’ reaching up, standing up, even climbing up. Just a moment ago she pulled herself up on the leg of a white wooden stool, stood there, waited for our attention and giggled. I know this is no big deal but somehow it all seems miraculous. How many billion years? From bacteria to one of those transparent jellyfish like creatures in the primal oceans, to plants, reptiles, furry mammals, on and on to you and me and now Carly Elizabeth. And all of this without texting or Instagram, without words, verbal concepts, comparisons, judgments, grades, shame and trophies. A miracle indeed!

We forget that the attention of new human beings is embedded in the body, a continuum between pleasure and pain. Pleasure represents good, safe, trusting, calm and play, play being that state of active learning and expansive growth. Pain equals fear, not good, no trust and defensive protection, not expansive learning and growth, not play. We forget that social to our babies and young children is sensory. Love to the early child means pleasure. All our lofty ideas, our projections, our explanations and excuses, our judgments and justifications, hopes and fears mean only what gets translated into our body and our behavior; tone of voice, facial expressions and quality of touch. No abstract content allowed. That is Carly’s world.

I know, the Greeks, Puritans and too many others ‘believe’ that pleasure is bad. Spare the rod and spoil the child. The body is dirty. Spirit, whatever that is, is closer to the divine. Repress temptation and be delivered from evil. All of this is anti-pleasure, anti-body, anti-love to the developing child.

Here we go. Someone gets an idea that pleasure is bad because it feels good. What? Are we crazy? Candace Pert, PhD, famous for discovering the dopamine receptor, the molecule at the base of the pleasure systems, states clearly that we are designed to experience pleasure. Pleasure is there for a reason. Pleasure is the glue that bonds human relationships. We call this love but that’s an abstraction. Closer to home, and for us incarnate human beings home means the body, love is pleasure. To repress pleasure is to repress love which is anti-our-design, anti-our-nature, anti nature itself, a diabolical cognitive twist, cognitive meaning our use of thought, memory, judgment against the natural order of the body resulting in the classic mind-body split. Carly Elizabeth could care less about the mind-body split. If it feels good it is good and in her book that builds the foundation for what we abstract as love.

I suggest that the absence of pleasure and safety and being nurtured with its implicit play and joy, which are all sensory during the formative periods of physical and emotional development, creates the foundation for the selfishness and self-centeredness we experience later. And yes, once this self is formed its implicit selfishness can and often does pervert play, joy and pleasure. A sensory-emotional system not deprived of pleasure, play and joy is not addicted, does not crave what has not been denied.

Just a few moments ago James W. Prescott, PhD, wrote:

The epidemic of violence in our Culture is due to impaired brain development and function. This singular fact has not been recognized by authorities and health professionals concerned with violence.

Is it really that simple? Is rape, sexual exploitation, domestic violence against women and children, our many addictions, bullying, shame, humiliation, cops pepper spraying students and our endless wars rooted in and symptoms of an impaired capacity to experience empathy, altruistic love and compassion? What does Jim mean by ‘impaired brain development and function?’ We assume that everyone has the capacity to love, but, and here is the twist, like every other capacity love must be developed. No development, no love. That’s the way it works.

Prescott’s research and that of many others leaves no doubt. Later development is built on the earliest foundation and that early foundation is somatic, sensory, tactile. Forget all the words. It’s the song in our hearts that convey.

I think of myself as a violin string vibrating, staccato or adagio? Heavy Metal or Mozart? This gets translated and expressed as Carly Elizabeth’s sensory experience, my gentle or rough touch, eyes piercing or laughing, the tone of my voice, scary-serious or safe enough to play? Multiply this 24/7 for the first critical months and the pattern is set. Carly knows what to expect. If Carly can figure out how to flip over, sit up, get on all fours, and crawl in a couple of weeks she can figure out what to expect from me, from life: pleasure, play and explosive growth or pain, fear and defensive aggression. And it is my responsibility and challenge to be sure that it is pleasure, play and joy.

Michael Mendizza


To enrich this rant I just got off the phone with Joseph Chilton Pearce, who at 89 was as bright as this spring day. We talked about the prefrontal brain being critical to all higher intelligence and to transcendence itself. Attached are the notes from The Biology of Transcendence we explored.