My little daughter turns one (month) old next week while my little boy is asking every day, “Am I four yet Dad?” He’s three years and two months old by the way, but the contrast between these two got me thinking about what we call truth and how we confuse ourselves. Most of what we call truth, isn’t true at all, it’s just a story that we all (or most of us) accept, it’s a way for us to communicate and navigate the world. But anything a newborn doesn’t know isn’t true. Let me explain…
Today is Saturday (apparently), although for a parent on leave from work with two small kids and a whole lot of washing, it’s never Saturday, it’s either hanging up nappies time, cooking time, eating time, clean up time, washing nappies time or bedtime. These are the only options. It’s a shame I forgot bath time, but we can cover that tomorrow, no harm done. For my newborn daughter, there is no time, it’s always now. For my son, it’s either “this day” or “next day” that something is happening or will happen, but we are slowly indoctrinating him into the world of time, of past and future. Every time I say, “come on or we’ll be late”, every time I say “we can’t do that today, it’s Sunday” I reinforce to him that there is something called a past and a future, that it’s possible to be late and that time is important. What he teaches me is the opposite.
Whenever Liam (yes he has a name) is packing up his train track by playing a game with the engines that makes packing up take an hour, he is teaching me something. Every time he stops on the way home to pick up rocks or leaves to give to his toy dinosaurs (they’re for the herbivores he tells me), instead of rushing to ‘get there’, he teaches me something. And when he wakes me up at 5.30am and just wants to play, even though my mind says it’s “too early”, he reminds me of something I sometimes forget: time can be useful, but it doesn’t really exist.
You see, time is no more than a way to measure the speed at which the earth rotates, and because we all agree to call it 7 o’clock or Wednesday or whatever, we can function more easily collectively. Time is a tool, but to the thinking mind, it is all important, because the future is the place where all my problems will be solved. So while my mind is trying to get through things, my son is just doing them, enchanted by the process, noticing this step, this rock, this leaf. He is my teacher, the one who reminds me that it’s all a game, and that whatever a newborn doesn’t know, whatever has to be taught, can’t be “truth”, otherwise it would be self-evident. At best, what we call truth could be called “generally agreed concepts we use to make life easier.”
Who is your greatest teacher?