Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Growing Mind

Sitting next to my three-year-old daughter for several hours on the plane, I was struck by what a curious thing the growing mind is.

Few of us, as adults, can remember the time betfore we were three or so. Speaking to a three year old, it is clear she has a host of small concerns which are, in her mind, quite well formed. She has likes and dislikes, a strong sense of what is hers (and what she would like to be hers), a sense of humor, a sense of self importance that does not want to be laughed at -- a person clearly, though writ small.

Her younger sister, just turned two, is harder to comprehend, if only because she doesn't speak as proficiently. Generally she doesn't speak in sentences, but in isolated nouns and verbs. Milk. Piggy-back ride. Read. Color.

For those who see no divine spark in the human person, it seems to come naturally to assume that these early stages of development are somehow less human than the later ones. I suppose someone of the school of the infamous Peter Singer might say that a newborn is 10% of a person, our two year old is 50% of a person and our three year old is 80% of a person.

Yet clearly on examination degrees of personhood are in the eyes of the judge. There is nothing that is infused into a toddler day by day as she adds words and more complicated concepts to her speach. The person, whatever that is, is there and there it stays.

Perhaps there's a certain fear for some people in thinking that there is no fundamental difference between themselves and a toddler who is limitted to statements such as "Milk! Aaah. Aaarrgh." And yet, it is only a few weeks or months later the same toddler will say, "Milk, please! Thank you, Daddy."

It's hard to know what this stage of rapid learning looks like from the inside, though I have no doubt that these small ones experience it as a rapidly unfolding flowering of experience and consciousness to which later periods of rapid learning (say, the two days before a calculus test) are nothing.

Most peculiar of all is to wonder, how did Christ experience these early stages of humanity? Fully God and fully man, He was born in to the world as a tiny infant, and grew through all the stages by which other children progress. And yet, he was somehow fully God throughout.

As Joseph spent time with the three-year-old Christ, I wonder what he made of his small charge. I wonder what Christ understood of Himself at that age.

1 comment:

Dorian Speed said...

I have wondered about this question for a long time, with no success in attaining enlightenment. ;)

Aren't there Gnostic texts that purport to tell the details of Jesus' life as a small child?

This whole question of "what Christ understood of Himself at that age" underscores the unfathomability of the Incarnation.