Like water pouring over Niagara Falls neurons connect as capacities unfold at astonishing speed. This is simply what Carly Elizabeth, and every new human being, is, exploding growth and change. We tend to relate intelligence with what is known. People who know a lot are considered intelligent. Dr. Frankenstein, the true monster in Shelly’s tale, knew a lot but what he knew could hardly be called intelligent. How many Frankensteins do you know? You may be one yourself.
My relationship, care and respect for Carly are based on at least equality in terms of true intelligence. If we think of intelligence as the capacity to survey, interact with and adapt appropriately to an ever-changing environment, Carly is clearly more intelligent than I, being so conditioned and predictable. Yes, I have more experience and therefore may appear more intelligent, able to predict and control. But this leads to habits, fixed patterns, unholy, meaning not whole actions. Multiply this by 7.4 billion little Frankensteins. Collectively we can make quite a mess of things.
It is ever-so obvious that Carly Elizabeth has a miraculous capacity to mimic. Z and I have been fighting a losing battle to keep tabs of the new words she uses each day, over 110, no 111, 112. We carry scraps of paper to help. They keep emerging like balls popping out of a bingo machine: beach, wet, wait, yippee, ahoy (Czech for hello), ouiee, night-night, again, light, eat, bus, up we go, and so many more. As you must know, this capacity for symbolic and metaphoric processing is light years beyond other species’ ability to do the same. While symbols do separate Sapiens from other species it is a misleading measure of intelligence. Whales sing songs that reverberate and communicate three hundred miles away. Birds fly half way around the globe and back again. Symbols are great but just one of an infinite rainbow of intelligent capacities. Appreciating this actively is the true sign of intelligence, not the self-centered hubris we often display. Always embracing Carly Elizabeth as my equal, with all due respect and care, changes how I perceive and relate to her. My arrogance glows less bright. I listen better. I am more attunes to the inner telepathic whispers we share.
So, here we are, a new capacity exploding, every experience has a name, symbols and metaphors. And yes, this newness will gobble up tons of attention for years to come as Carly plays inner-chess with the mental images words evoke. At the same time this inner play of symbols, strung together like pop-beads, creates noise, a form of inner and outer chatter or babble. Attention being limited, the sound of the wind will grow dim. The fuzzy caterpillar on the bush will not be seen. The fragrance of the oranges on the tree will barely register. As stories build in richness and complexity from The Three Bears to Cinderella, more and more of Carly’s attention will be drawn inside. Though limited, Carly’s attention can easily hold both, the inner and the outer, well balanced, together. But this balance needs to be cultivated. Rather than a mind-body split there needs to unfold mind-body integration with each realm, each ‘way of being and knowing’ held equally, intellect and senses being viewed as different intelligences, not one superior to the other.
What is so difficult to grasp is the exponential demand on attention this inner world of words represents. Vibrating patterns of sound, purely sensory experiences, are abstracted into meaning and represented in the brain as a memory-image of experience and as a word-name-image for that experience. These two forms are forever paired. If that were not challenging enough, moving strings of symbol pairs, phrases and sentences, change the flow of meaning depending of the arrangement of sensory vibrations, and this goes on and on, building in complexity and abstractions from Little Red Riding Hood to Friedrich Nietzsche, from 2+2 = 4 to E=MC2.
The challenge is to fully develop this word-flavor of intelligence along with all the other forms of intelligence percolating and do so honoring each child’s uniqueness and diversity. While each child has all forms of intelligence within, some fancy yellow while others take more quickly to green. Balance, therefore, valuing the mind and the body, is not fixed, not the same for one child as it is for another. As was written over the door of the Albany Free School, “Every child comes with a curriculum and it is our job to discover it.”
This shift of focus from the outer senses to the inner world of words is one of the major life-changing events in Carly’s life and ours. We too shift our attention from the world of sensory sensation to abstract symbol-images, which is our habit. Habits are convenient. We don’t have to reinvest the time and attention when first tying our shoes today. At the same time habits are mechanical. The more our behavior is caught in habits the less sensitive and aware we are. David Bohm, protégé of Einstein, noted: there is little or no real intelligence in a mechanical habit.
This journey, What I Learned With Carly Today, began the day Carly Elizabeth was born when I wrote my birth story for close family. Birth can hardly be called mechanical or a habit. The exhilarating experience lifted me out of my habits and into the exploding present. Sharing in Carly’s everyday miracle of change – changes me. Being with Carly was and is a meditation of newness and discovery for her and for me, each in our own way. With the unfolding of symbolic language Carly is moving more closely to my norm which, of course, opens to story, imagination and all the developmental growth we humans experience, and if we are lucky even beyond. At the same time my challenge to remain awake, sensory, sensitive, attuned and aware grows more difficult. The more Carly develops language skills the less her development will draw me out of my mechanical habits. How easy it will be for me to ‘think and feel’ that I know it all as she continues to grow. Suddenly my arrogance grows bright again.
As was the case from the very beginning the constant demand is for the adult to meet the child at the child’s level with a light heart, as stress free as possible, modeling the very best the adult can bring to this moment and the next. How different is this from the norm of conformity matching? If the child’s behavior is validating the adult’s self-image and that is being judged constantly by approval or disdain of the larger community-culture, little darling gets a smile and a pat on the head. If not? Well, you know. No demand here for the adult to learn and grow, in their unique way, right along with the child in their unique way. How convenient. The adult remains affirmed but stuck either way, punishing and rewarding, in a downward spiral that binds and blinds everyone.
Carly’s explosive growth is a dramatic demonstration. As the saying goes, we never pass the same place twice. Life is a process, moving, always changing. She is different every moment of every day and so am I when my comfort and habits are suspended, arriving stress free, with a light heart, modeling the very best I can be. We do things for love that money, prestige and power can’t buy. Watching and sharing in the Carly Show in this way she, I and the entire world we represent are uplifted again and again, one moment at a time as nature intended by design.
The meaning of our lives
Ever wonder what’s it all about?
Am I wasting my life?
The true and honest answer does not come from the intellect
with its social values and conditioning, its measurements and comparisons.
The meaning of our life is what we make of it and what we make of it is cast by how we live each day,
our state of wholeness and wellbeing and how this state helps others do the same.
The truth of our life and its meaning is how we live each moment.
We begin our life as a child full of wonder and excitement that simply being alive imply.
The more we touch and connect, the greater our discovery, the greater our wonder and energy grows.
The meaning of life is this state of wonder and growth, what some may call innocence, beginner’s mind.
Then dos and don’ts are layered, like a heavy coat, over us and we identify with the coat and lose sight of our original wonder, beauty and miracle of life exploding moment by moment all around us. The state of mind that identifies with the coat becomes the center of our attention as the coat grows heavier with comparisons, one judgment after another. Many live their days wrapped in this coat, like the heavy chains wrapped around Jacob Marley’s ghost in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol.
Some awaken to this folly and begin undoing what others have done (and they, too, by their innocent trust), believing what they see in the mirror that others are holding. Some count beads, some sit in empty rooms, some do yoga, repeat a phrase, jog, and all sorts of addictions to negate the heavy coat and experience anew the rare joy they once took for granted. In the end the very best practices bring us back to the future, back to the wonder and growth simply being alive this moment brings.
The insight and challenge is to ‘walk in this beauty’ as a state of wonder and growth, as we go about our lives lighthearted, wearing the coat that society insists, knowing, after all, it is just a coat and nothing more.