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.
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.