Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Innocence Of Wonder

When I was twelve I woke up in the middle of the night and knew what the meaning of life was. By the time I woke up again in the morning I'd forgotten what it was. Still can't remember. You have no idea how incredibly frustrating that is.

I've used almost exactly the same intro as that to this blog before. Not just because I think it's a good one (although I think it is - I even have an unseen short story that starts much the same way). But because every now and again I realize that I while I think I'm relatively clever I don't actually know much at all. And I really did wake up back then and was convinced I had it. Mainly I'm reminded of what I don't know when I listen to a Christopher Hitchens debate or to a Stephen Fry lecture and it's clear that their genuine intellectual curiosity translated into genuine learning (I mention them over academics because they learn/ed out of love rather than it being tied to a salary). Or to John Lloyd explaining what it is we all don't know and realizing that he got to a point in his life where he genuinely decided to stop procrastinating and to actually learn about the things he had put off his whole life because he figured he'd do it later. Or when I realize that I've started but not finished all sorts of guff about Greek philosophy, about and the historicity of christian theology ( how Pope Damasus had the Bible rewritten to make it more Roman so that  you can all the clumsy editing all through both Testaments), at attempts at learning a language or biographies about Alan Watts or whatever - but given them up to go buy chocolate or watch videos of dildos in space on Youtube. To my credit though I have climbed back into the saddle and have been religiously reading novels I always thought I wanted to (on a huge Arthur Conan Doyle and Philip K. Dick trip at the minute) and have adored almost every one of them.

But over the last few days my daughter has been plowing her way through the Digestion and Reproduction book that she randomly got out of the library and it's reminded me of the fact that in my late 30s I keep putting off actually learning things I'd really like to learn. And yet she's six and is genuinely interested in this book both because of it's content about the body, but also because it's riddled with words that she hasn't learned yet. She reads the one page, then her mother or I read the other page. By the way I've made a colossal mistake there because I decided to stop last night on the page before the massive picture of a penis. Grinning to myself I confidently put the book down knowing that her mother would have to go through that the next day, and have just realized that it's me and the kids tonight - so muggins will be reading it. But the point here is that she is genuinely curious about everything to such degree that to not learn about them seems ridiculous.

I didn't see my kids for ten days until last Thursday. When I picked my son up from daycare it was as if his movement had completely changed. The way he addressed me was entirely different. When I picked up my daughter from school she seemed taller in the way that grandparents often say. Her reading comprehension - which was always good - had escalated to such a degree that she can read absolutely everything. And not only that she was behaving as if she needed to read absolutely everything she could as quickly as possible lest she go back six months and not be able to do it anymore. Hearing her joyfully singing to her self before bed about Bowmans Capsule is incredibly surreal. For goodness sake she even said she now had a boyfriend.

The point here is that while I regret that because their mother and I have divorced that we now can miss certain things about our kids development, the great thing about it is that it has reminded me of how bloody amazing being a parent is for me, and being a kid is for them. The element of wonder, the craving for knowledge and actually learning massive things like reading and then understanding things is an amazing thing. It has really underlines a Dylan Moran quote I heard once where he points out that you have children and think you have all these things to teach them, and then you realize that they are the ones who are really teaching you.

And on top of that there's pure, unadulterated imagination. I think I'm pretty imaginative (life would be infinitely boring otherwise). But my kids can entertain themselves for hours with just a coat, a stick and a butterfly net.

It's pure fucking joy being a parent.

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