“The Barboo Chronicles” video series is made up of readings from the manuscript of a couple of volumes of memories from my infancy and early childhood. The videos only present the memories, but in the episode analyses I will present the rest of the material that is included in the manuscript – my mom’s, and occasionally other people’s, recollections of these events, as well as my own analysis of the memory material.
One of the reasons I wanted to write out my early memories and put them into as close to chronological order as possible was to be able to find everything (as much as I could) that was in them.
The first five episodes in the series address one single memory episode. What follows below is the manuscript text that supplements all the memory material contained in those first five videos.
MEMORY: RETURN OF THE VACCINATION TRAUMA
AGE: A very broad marker for placing this memory is that the content precedes the intense and urgent philosophical period that took place during age 3. The discoveries I made in the following episode were part of the intellectual base that informed my age 3 concerns and questions.
As with several events that struck her as important in my early life, my mother mentally noted my age during the following episode as “age two”. She knew the event was unusual and wanted to catalogue it in memory by age. She says she is certain that I was two years old, and has the additional impression that it was early age two: “It’s just in my head that it was closer to two than three.”
However, in my memory of the episode I start out sitting in front of the TV, and my impression is that I was sitting at my little card table, which I got for Christmas, 1956. That would put me between 2 ½ and my 3rd birthday. But I am only certain that I was sitting a few feet from the TV in a child-sized seat. And I know that before I was given the table it was my habit to watch TV in the same close proximity to the set, while sitting in my booster seat or my little rattan chair. I’m not completely sure that I wasn’t sitting in one of these on this occasion, even though as I recall it I am at that card table.
So this big event may have happened at early two, as my mother believes, or sometime after Christmas. But whenever it occurred, our best recollection places it somewhere between my second and third birthdays. Plus, in the memory, my recollection is that mommy told me that most people don’t even remember being my age at the time – age 2.
SIGNIFICANCE: My memory of the return of the vaccination trauma is one of the most powerful core events in my life, containing numerous lessons with which I formed my early character. I knew at the time that this experience was a turning point, a huge step up in my mental growth, and that I had just been enriched in a vital way. I wanted to “keep it in me” forever. Immediately, it became my sacred treasure, a compelling “love” to cherish and keep at the center of myself.
NOTE: As a rule, I have written out a memory before asking my Mom for her memory, and did not show her what I’d written until after I had interviewed her. The few times I slipped up on this process I indicated that in the manuscript. But I did not slip up with this memory event.
MOM’S MEMORY: The clearest part of this event in my mother’s memory is what she calls “close to the perfect quote,” which stuck in her mind. She says this quote is typical of my verbal ability at early age two:
“I remember when the other doctor gave me a shot, and it hurt, and I got mad at you because you let him hurt me.” (I see why the quote stuck in her mind, because the first time she told it to me, it stuck in mine.)
The “other doctor” was the one who had brought me into the world and had been my pediatrician until I was 18 months old.
My new doctor had been my mother’s pediatrician and had saved her life and heart from rheumatic fever when she was a teenager.
Mom says she recognized the event at once and felt uncomfortable because she knew I was remembering a trauma. “You were very matter-of-fact about it. You told me about remembering and said you were sorry – but that you couldn’t have known back then about why the doctor hurt you.” She says my emotional tone was: “Very serious. Matter-of-fact. You seemed stirred up about it. The whole point of the conversation was that you had made this discovery and felt sorry about having been angry.”
Mom says she explained about shots again, anyway, even though I already knew about them. She wanted to make sure that I understood why she’d let the doctor hurt me. I listened and answered: “Yes.”
Mom was amazed that I could remember such an early memory as the vaccination, but it made sense to her because “You were so bright and seemed to notice everything around you.” And also because the event had been extremely emotional.
She also remembers telling me that she remembered when I got the shot, too, and that I was just a little baby. She said that I was the only person she knew of who remembered being a baby. And she remembers my concern that I’d forget like everyone else, and that I asked if she thought I could keep my baby memories, and she said she thought I could if that’s what I wanted. I said that I was afraid all children my age could remember, but then couldn’t help forgetting. She also remembers saying that most people don’t even remember being two – my age then.
She doesn’t have a clear memory of where she was in the living room when I first told her about remembering the shot. She thinks she was beside or on the sofa, which differs from my memory of going to her in the striped chair. But she isn’t sure. She says that “it just seems to me that I was at that end (sofa end) of the room.” She thinks it’s possible that I turned around from my seat and started to talk and she went to the striped chair to listen. That chair was the location, she says, of many of our talks – the place she tended to go when we were going to have a talk. (Which is how I remember that chair, too.) But she isn’t sure of the location of the talk.
I clearly remember running to her while she was in the chair and that is where most of the discussion took place, but maybe I did turn around and start to talk, first. I don’t remember Mom re-explaining shots, but that’s one of the things she remembers clearly. I do remember learning about smallpox, but that was new information.
While I was writing this episode I asked Mom whether she recalls a tendency for me, beginning at age two, to stand, sit or lie in one place for long periods of time, obviously
thinking about something. She answered that that tendency was very evident, but it began earlier than age two.
ANALYSIS: RETURN OF THE VACCINATION TRAUMA
A Note on “The Return”: I do not know whether this traumatic vaccination memory had resurfaced at all prior to the age two episode. I don‟t have any snatches of a memory in which I remembered even a bit of it before this highly productive example. That does not necessarily mean the memory was entirely buried. It only means I don‟t remember instances of it coming back to conscious awareness before this episode, if it did. And if it did, I undoubtedly turned away from it immediately because of its security-shaking nature. The difference at age two was that I finally had learned enough to be able to take the trauma out of it. My awareness of the true nature of the incident was immediate, as soon as the memory hit consciousness, so it no longer was a threat to my emotional security.
A. Development of Conscious/Subconscious Interaction from Simple to Complex.
1) Pre-Verbal Period
Even in my infant episodes an object of my attention often triggered a flash of memory that made me aware of some relationship between the actual object and a remembered one. This interaction between conscious content and memory content is the same source of new insights whether in my pre-verbal or verbal mind. It made me aware of new relationships at age three months as well as at two years. But in my memories of pre-verbal life new ideas didn’t flood in on top of one another. They came one at a time. There are strings of discoveries in my infant episodes, but strings are not floods. In infancy, when a new relationship automatically came together I gave it intensive focus to try to make the relationship clear. Then, intensive focus kept the discovery process going, with one new idea prompting another, creating excitement and energy that motivated continued effort. (For examples of this, see Vol.I, pgs.20-27, “Age Three Months” or Vol. I, pgs.91-95, “Grandma’s Hat”.) Multiple new connections did happen in my pre-verbal episodes, but they came along one after another in a manageable line, not a demanding crowd.
(Just speculating: perhaps its not impossible for more than one new connection to be triggered in a pre-verbal mind; there could be more than one memory that matches up with the object of attention. But the baby could only pursue one of the new link-ups while the other(s) would fade. Then it would be virtually impossible to find the lost idea
without language to help track and re-trigger it.
The pre-verbal mind might, after clarifying the new relationships, be left with the feeling that there was something else, but once that something else has been displaced, its a feeling whose time has gone. Without language to frame the search – to ask questions, for example – the recovery effort would be real drudgery, if not impossible. Although… I suppose that if the infant focussed on the “something else” feeling, it might trigger the memory of what he was focussed on when the connections were made. Then, by his focusing on the original object, the same connections might recur and he could go with the “something else”. However, if rapid multiple connections happened to me in infancy, the experience isn’t part of my memories.)
Now that I’ve put my memories into chronological order, it appears that my capacity to have numerous ideas flood into consciousness grew over time. There was a pattern to my pre-verbal conscious/subconscious interactions:
* Some conscious observation would trigger memory content.
* The memory content, together with the trigger observation, created an implication – an intuitive relationship that I felt or sensed.
* I worked to make the new connection clear to myself.
* The excitement and satisfaction of this activity kept me paying attention and thus triggering new relationships. My infant episodes contain strings of new discoveries, but not rushing floods.
2) Verbal Period
As my language skills developed I could learn beyond my direct perceptual and emotional experience, and therefore go beyond any automatically connected relationships these simple sources offered. I could put my questions into words and ask them. With language I could learn facts about such remote subjects as death, disease, and medicine. And as my mental content became more complex through language, the automatic connections became more prolific.
By the time I recalled my vaccination trauma, my head was packed with memories of both direct experience and conceptual information. Now there was enough stored in my memory to allow myriad associations, relationships, implications, and questions. These could come in rapid succession, or a number of ideas might seem to be triggered all at the same time. Either way, I got a sense of a whole complex being awake at once – a whole lot to explore. And I’d see flashes of the content.
When this sense of a whole turns on in your mind, you cannot consciously grasp the whole all at once. You have a sense of a whole set of related ideas that have risen from the meeting of conscious content with memory content, and as these ideas flash they stimulate even more new connections, very rapidly. Your mind floods with new ideas and you think: “Wow! There‟s a lot here!”
Language made this flooding possible by enabling my mind to grow beyond the directly perceptual/emotional. The infant mind‟s connections had been automatically made
between conscious content and perceptual/emotional memory content.
The relationships were relatively simple. Although there were consciously grasped abstractions in my pre-verbal experience, such as the idea of the passing of time, these abstractions were easy ones, held in imagery.
All you need for the concept of the passing of time to strike you is perceptual memory. And all you need to make it solid in your consciousness is the ability to produce a mental image from an object that’s right in front of you. In my case, the object was a rattle, and I shook it, then stopped and made an image of it still shaking and moving away. Then I shook my rattle again and stopped, making another image of that shake move away to join the other image moving away. All I did was pay attention and want to grasp the intuition more firmly, and the idea for how to do that arose intuitively as well.
That is probably as complex as an abstraction can get without words. But language brings in information beyond your own direct experience and allows you to make more and more complex connections between known facts. So a verbal mind has a tool with which to gather more facts and to identify more relationships between facts.
Therefore that mind has far more memory content that can respond when the conscious mind is in focus. More content with more interconnections = more opportunities to discover even more connections. So when the man on TV was about to get a shot, the memory of my infant vaccination turned on. And in my greater knowledge – gathered through language – I saw my infant error and my mind began to churn out implications very fast, and these new ideas implied further new ideas.
And then language made it possible to capture the new ideas in memorable words.
Language also made it possible to go back to the beginning of the flood, to say to myself: “Where did all this start?“ and then to start it again so I could choose from the collection another idea to explore. Language allowed me to sort through the burgeoning mass of ideas, to capture and order them. Language even enabled my two-year-old mind to understand the importance of language to “knowing enough to get the right meaning.”
Having language allowed me to have this amazing learning experience that shouted to me that the directly perceivable can’t tell me everything – there are relationships that only words can explain.
It was during this episode that I began to use the term “sorting” for the process of:
*Re-triggering ideas and focussing on one.
*Capturing and clarifying the idea with words.
* Finding as many of its implications, relationships, and questions as I could.
*Going back to the original flood-trigger (or just remembering one of the other ideas from the flood) and following the same process again.
Knowing how to sort: It may seem surprising that, at age two, knowing how to cope with the flood came so naturally to me. But I had been pursuing and clarifying what my automatic mind (known as my “Inside Mind” as of this episode) gave me since as far back as I could remember. As my mental content became more complex and the automatic offerings more prolific, I continued my characteristic mental efforts. I learned as I went along how to handle the growing activity of my automatic mind. By the time the astounding flood hit at age two, I had the background to know what to do with it; I saw how to go back and re-trigger because I’d been re-triggering at simpler levels since infancy. The complexity did not leap out of stark simplicity; it and my coping skills, together, grew gradually.
Now, at two-something, with a huge complex of ideas to sort, the further fulfillment of my mind required the will and patience to take whatever time and effort necessary to “go into things and find everything that‟s in them.”
Motivation to do the work: From the beginning (or at the latest, age three months) I had been about the process of noticing the results of interaction between perception and memory, and working to clarify them consciously. As an infant I was aware that what I observed outside of myself made permanent images, sounds, and tactile impressions that stayed inside me and made surprising new link-ups as I observed real things. These link-up surprises were the delight of my life. I found my greatest satisfaction in making them clear to myself and holding them in consciousness until the capturing process felt complete.
This satisfaction had been the source of my happiness for all of my remembered life. When my first great flood was upon me, I saw that tremendous outpouring as my next step up – literally saw myself stepping up on a step. It wasn’t the first time I had experienced the presence of multiple new ideas, but this time it was so extreme and dramatic that I was amazed. It was an unprecedented bounty of new insights. And they were important insights. I could not bear to let them come and go without consciously capturing, clarifying, and making them a permanent part of myself.
Adding to the thrust to do this work was the emotional backdrop of the traumatic memory that had started it all. I had suffered a horrible unhappiness because I had not known what these insights could teach. I did not want to make that kind of mistake again. So I was motivated to work for clarity for two reasons:
* As I had since infancy, I clarified my subconscious responses for the excitement and satisfaction the process gave me. The process gave me the “high” of surprising discoveries.
* I saw that my subconscious responses offered important lessons that I needed to understand for the sake of making good choices, avoiding errors, and thus making happiness.
By this time I was able to see why clarifying my mental content was of practical importance for my happiness, not just a satisfying activity in itself. I saw it as a means to seeking real meanings and choosing the right actions to make happiness.
But I was acting in accordance with my characteristic approach to the activities of my “Inside Mind”. The original – and continuing – motivator was a powerful one: doing what I do because it’s my way of gaining satisfaction. In infancy that is what pushed me to work, even to struggle. I wanted to get that bang. Both motivators were now in operation. My conscious understanding had now grasped the life-serving practical value of a practice that had started as a source of excitement and satisfaction – of a bang.
As a baby, I would struggle to clarify what I needed to do in order to meet some objective, as when I was working with the ring tower [VOL. I, pgs. 101-104]. But most infant clarifying efforts that I remember were done as supremely satisfying ends in themselves.
II. SNATCHES AND EPISODES
When the vaccination trauma exploded from its hiding place, it filled my mind with flashing snatches of events; the whole vaccination experience seemed to surround me all at once. Not until I chose to start at the beginning and travel a linear path did the snatches fall into chronological order. But once I decided to begin at the beginning, the parts fell into their time-logical order without difficulty, one accessing the next.
The process of going through the memory in order required conscious focus, but not a hard puzzle-piecing effort. I believe that the first time I ever took the linear trail through a memory was during this age two exploration of my traumatic doctor visit. The incentive came with the flood: first came the swatches of memory, in all their perceptual/emotional vividness, firing off rapidly, bringing the whole episode alive in me at once. I didn’t need to time-order the memory to grasp the first few insights that rushed in: that the man had been a doctor, the hurt a shot, my unhappiness mistaken, and the mistake a result of not knowing enough to get the right meaning. I also realized that I owed Mommy an apology.
All of those insights arose from the hodge-podge, holistic presentation of the episode. They were easy to grasp and hold. But once the more complex flood of insights began, I had to find a way to go back and sort them out. The natural solution was to go back to the memory that had started the flood and use it as a trigger.
The first time I remember deliberately going through a memory chronologically from the beginning was when I wanted to re-trigger the flood so that I could begin to sort out the ideas (and therefore probably did not take the episode through to the end.)
When I‟d finished the idea-sorting, I went through the memory from the beginning again for the purpose of retaining the memory forever. The first time through I was looking for ideas; the second time I wanted to experience the memory from start to finish, hoping that such an exercise would keep the memory forever alive. If sometime before the trauma returned I took a chronological tour of some other memory episode, I don’t remember having done it.
As I recall, memories came to mind in snatches – a bit of an episode, or floods of bits. I don’t believe there was an incentive for me to look at my memories in story-order until the return of the vaccination trauma. But when that memory came back to consciousness, the two spurs toward such ordering came with it.
III.PRE-VERBAL MEMORIES INTO WORDS
During infancy, memories were stored without language. They were perceptual and emotional, and many of the relationships that I grasped depended on automatic connections made between these memories and present experience.
Bits of these memories were often switched on during infancy. Later, when pre-verbal memories switched on before my verbal mind, I was able to identify their content in words as easily as if I were observing percepts and emotional experience in the present.
The same is true for the perceptually grasped relationships from infancy, such as the simple abstraction of time passing (Vol.I, pg. 94).
If I had the vocabulary to describe an experience or relationship in the present, I could describe it when its perceptual/emotional equivalent came up from the past.
IV. KEEPING CONTENT REAL
By age two my language ability allowed me to take in more information than the directly perceptual. In the present episode my knowledge of disease, permanent injury, death, and preventive medicine had all come to me through language.
But I didn’t absorb information dryly. I found the personal connections to my own life, was careful to connect my verbally received ideas back to perceptual and emotional referents that I could understand. I made sure that verbal information meant something to me, that it mattered. I didn’t feel that I understood an idea unless I could relate it to something real in my own experience, or could create an imaginary experience to explain it to myself (which I created from perceptual memory, including images from picture books, magazines, and TV).
The use of imagination is a powerful tool in making meaning real. In the present episode, for example, I gave myself imaginary smallpox scars, using the vaccination scars on my mother’s and my arms as reference. I multiplied these scars all over my face and body, seeing the contrast between my actual smooth, pretty skin and the cratered flesh. I made that aspect of smallpox as real as I could so I’d understand deep within myself what it would mean to get the disease. If smallpox didn’t kill me, then I’d have to live with this.
Both death and scarring were horrifying possibilities and I felt the awfulness at the core, personal level, where my intense response to beauty suffered torture at the disfigurement. This was not an indifferent absorption of factual information. I was personally involved in understanding both the facts and their meaning to my life. This kind of involvement rooted the lessons to my core.
V. DISCOVERY AND INVENTION
My grandfather had already given me a dramatic introduction to the subject of discovery and invention. The Brown Lady on the bus had led to an explanation of where the black race had originated, which had opened the subject of slavery, America‟s invention as the first free country, the importance of freedom to discovery and invention, and a contrast between primitive and modern living and superstition versus science.
Grandpa had given me an emotionally powerful survey of Man’s development from pre-history to the modern age. That background was inside me, ready for new additions to my appreciation for discoverers and inventors. When imaginary smallpox scars disfigured my perfect two-year-old skin and I faced a lifetime of ugliness, I knew that it was discovery and invention that had saved me from the smallpox fate. This intensely personalized, imaginary experience connected with the history my Grandpa had shown me, and made discovery and invention an even more personal love. (My mother may have also made explicit reference to discovery and/or invention in relation to the vaccination, but neither she nor I recall it. I remember Mom saying that people don’t get smallpox anymore because of the shot, and I remember thinking about discovery and invention from there.)
The concept of justice/injustice (a.k.a. the deserved/undeserved) played an important role in this episode. As soon as the vaccination trauma made its appearance, I realized that my mommy had been helping me, not hurting me just to hurt me, as I had believed. I immediately wanted to apologize for having been unjust to her; she had not deserved for me to be mad at her and to fight her.
My grasp of the concept of justice was also expressed in my recognition that I had not been at fault for the unjust error. I saw that as an infant I could not have known enough to get the right meaning, because I couldn’t understand enough words to gather the necessary information. I realized that, although I had been unjust to my mother, I had had no way to know any better. It would be as unjust to blame my infant self for the injustice I had committed as it had been to turn against my mother for letting the doctor hurt me. I had committed injustice in innocence.
It occurs to me that even if I hadn’t had previous exposure to the concept of justice, this experience would have brought the idea of it into my life. The material for the concept from which the idea can be drawn, is right there: I had believed Mommy let the man hurt me just to hurt me; I had gotten mad and fought Mommy; now I see that Mommy let him hurt me in order to keep me safe from a much worse hurt. I wouldn’t have known to call my mistake “injustice”, but I still would have been able to see that my angry feeling and action toward my mother had been wrong, because she’d been doing good for me, not bad.
I also would have been able to see that as a non-verbal infant I could not have avoided my wrong reaction at the time, and that it would have been wrong to call the baby “bad” for feeling and acting wrongly.
However, by the time the trauma returned I was well acquainted with the concept of justice. I had a rich background in stories from books and TV, as well as the historical stories my Grandpa told me, and these stories provided example after example of justice vs. injustice, of the deserved vs. the undeserved. My adults were in the habit of supplementing these examples with commentary, such as: “This is unjust! Cinderella is kind and thoughtful and deserves to be treated with kindness and thoughtfulness!” Or: “Cinderella does all the household work, and her stepmother gives her only rags to wear, but gives the lazy stepsisters beautiful gowns and jewels, and lets them go to the ball. How unjust! Cinderella is the one who deserves the nice things, not those mean, lazy girls.”
This approach gave me the chance to assimilate concepts presented in the stories and the words that stood for them. The above example of adult commentary is not a specific memory; I invented it from my general recollection of how my adults (most often, my mother) used stories to help me learn words and concepts. But I do remember that the concept of justice stood out to me in my preschool years as the usual point of a story: something was unjust and had to be set right. I knew that’s what made stories matter to me.
MOM’S MEMORY: “From the time – around 12 months – we began reading whole stories – stories with a beginning, middle and end that showed examples of good and evil, justice and injustice – I made it clear to you what was ‘just’ and ‘unjust’. And if I didn’t stop to explain what was going on that was wrong in the story, you’d stop me [once I could express myself well enough] and ask questions about the situation. Usually the injustice was upsetting to you because you knew it was wrong, and you wanted to discuss it.”
VII. “KNOW ENOUGH TO GET THE RIGHT MEANING” IS EVERYWHERE!
After this episode showed me that “you have to know enough to get the right meaning”, I began noticing that theme everywhere, in life and stories. I noticed when a story (book or TV) gave the audience information that a character didn’t know, and the character came to the wrong conclusions because he “didn’t know enough to get the right meaning.” The listener or viewer could see that the character was making a mistake, but the character didn’t know it! I was very impressed that the principle I had discovered was everywhere I looked. This gave me plenty of practice thinking about the principle, observing how not knowing enough can lead to all kinds of mix-ups, sometimes funny, sometimes disaster.
I don’t know if the following came at age two, but I remember noticing that my enjoyment of a story was enhanced by knowing enough when the character didn’t, and that often in comedy the humor relied on the audience knowing what the character didn’t. (These story insights came while we were still living in our first house, which means before I turned six. I was at my card table watching TV at the time. But I’m guessing that it came closer to age two than six, given my already avid interest in stories and my interest in understanding how meaning/emotions worked.)
VIII. INFANCY AND AGE TWO YEARS: WHAT’S IN COMMON?
There is a strong, persisting style of mind illustrated in my memories between ages 3 months and 2 years. This style is apparent in my first memory, in the way I observed physical objects and attended to automatic mental connections. (Vol. I, pgs. 20-27)
So to show the continuity of my mental approach between these ages, I‟ll compare that first memory and this one from age two. I consider the following to be the key aspects of my early mental style.
A. “ Finding Everything That‟s In It “
In both the 3 months and this age two episode, I was attempting to examine all the information available in regard to the object of my attention. My infant style of external observation paralleled my age two style of internal observation.
1) Infant Style of External Observation, Memory I
(see Vol.I, pgs. 20 – 28, “Age Three Months”)
In my first episode of memory, I looked at an object as a whole, then followed the outline with my eyes in order to emphasize its boundaries. Then I picked an aspect of the object within the outline, focussed on it – held my focus – until I felt a sense of completion. Then I found another aspect within the boundary and did the same with it. I continued this process until I was satisfied that I had captured all the aspects of the object. That was my infant way of thoroughly understanding an object at the perceptual level. The process above is an example of making the effort to “find everything that’s in” the subject at hand.
What I did visually at 3 months with the ring over my crib, I did mentally at age 2 with the ideas that branched when my infant trauma dropped into fresh soil.
2) Age Two Style of Internal Observation, “Return of Vaccination Trauma”
New ideas began to proliferate rapidly. I wasn’t satisfied to let them merely pass through my mind and dissolve – I wanted to examine and keep them. So I went back to the source of burgeoning buds in order to pick one, “go into it”, understand it as thoroughly as I could, and stick with it until I felt secure in it.
When I finished exploring one idea, I went back to the source to choose another to “go onto.” That was my age two way of thoroughly examining a subject at the conceptual level.
I felt the same need, at both stages of development, to analyze the whole, to not skim over content. And at both stages I persisted in my efforts to clarify that content.
4) Age Two Style of Visual Observation
There is also a parallel between my infant habit of analyzing objects visually and my age two visual pleasures, as demonstrated by my examination of the patterns on wrapping paper at my second birthday party (Vol. II, pgs 8-9).
During that process of seeing all I could in the paper, I also looked to find whatever I could beyond the immediately perceptual, as when I discovered the idea of imagining what might have happened before and after the scenes portrayed on the paper. But the habit had, in essence, the same impetus whether aimed at the perceptual or conceptual, concrete or abstract. I found my pleasure, at whatever level, in “finding everything that‟s in it.”
B. Internal Observation at Three Months and Two Years.
In the 3 months memory (Vol.I, pgs.20-27), external observation was intense, ordered, and detailed. I felt the need to take objects apart visually, focus on their various aspects individually, see the thing as its parts and as a whole. But that kind of observation encourages the brain to make new connections – to go beyond the directly perceptual to the relational. From sensory perception to the pre-verbal rudiments of abstraction.
At the simplest level, ideas were born, automatically connected between memory and observation. Percept connected to memory of percept, as when an image of the ridged strap flashed as I looked at the ridged spring that held the ring-set to my crib (Vol.I, pg. 22).
So I was aware of simple abstractions (e.g., ridges), could sense them or see them, and when I did I would keep focussing on the feeling of the new idea, or focus on the thing that had triggered it in an attempt to get the idea back. I wanted to make the new relationship clear to my mind and hold it, as I did with the aspects of the physical objects I observed. It didn’t matter whether the observed thing was internal or external: I wanted to capture and understand it.
At age two this drive to understand my automatic connections persisted, but the understanding I pursued was far more complex. As a pre-verbal infant my automatically connected abstractions were wordless perceptual categorizations, such as the abstraction of ridges from two objects having them, or the recognition of the similarity between two pastels and their difference from a vivid color.
I also went so far as to capture the abstraction that time passes, using my ability to imaginatively picture an object – my rattle – being shaken while I held the actual rattle still. These non-verbal abstractions could not go beyond the perceptual/imaging tools available to discover and clarify what my automatic functions offered me.
But at two, by the power of compound sentences, my abstractions broke into the domain of philosophy. And my attitude toward these higher abstract ideas was the same as it had been toward the most primitive, pre-verbal ones: fascination and an urgent desire to pin them down, understand, and make them part of me, and “find everything that‟s in it.”
CORRECTIVE NOTE: From Parts to Whole
Before I go to the next section, “Whole – Parts – Whole”, I ought to mention that when I wrote the “Three Months” memory episode I left out a significant detail in two places. It’s an old familiar detail, not newly remembered, but with all else I was keeping in mind to write down I overlooked this bit.
On page 21 of Volume I, at the beginning of the last paragraph, it should say: “When I was satisfied that I had found all the parts within the outline, I looked at the ring as a whole again.” I also did the same with the white plastic strap. I did not do it with the silvery spring because I got distracted by something more interesting.
In another episode I did bother to mention looking at the bunny-rattle as a whole again, after examining part-by-part (Vol. I, pg.93, “Grandma‟s Hat”, age 8 months).
I have at least three memories of looking at the whole after examining parts, and I think that this was likely a common practice, except when some new discovery distracted me from it. Because the process of visual analysis tended to stimulate new integrations, such distractions from returning to the whole probably happened often. But to have three examples in memory suggests that the return to the whole was a natural urge that I followed when nothing more interesting diverted me.
C. Whole – Parts – Whole
The whole – parts – whole orientation is the see it/take-it-apart/put-it-back-together approach to exploration. The “put-it-back-together” part is my focus now.
Age Three Months: On the perceptual level the “put-it-back-together” phase is easy to identify because…it’s perceptual. I literally looked at the whole again when I was finished with the parts. Once again, the pattern: see the whole; follow its outline visually; focus, in turn, on each part within the whole; then look at the whole as a whole again. I felt the need to once again see as a whole what I’d mentally taken apart.
Age two years: The need to go back to the whole operated on the conceptual level as well, although it may not be as obvious as an infant’s direct perception. On the conceptual level of exploration, whole-parts-whole works like this: An intuitive idea (the whole) comes to conscious attention in the form of a thought, feeling, or image; the conscious mind makes the effort to identify the components of the idea – the information that automatically merged to create it; the conscious mind seeks to identify or re-identify the idea that the components actually imply. That abstract summation, the meaning, the generalization, the principle, is the “whole”.
The final idea may turn out to be the same one that came to mind intuitively – the idea that prompted the exploration of its parts. Or the conscious investigation may improve upon, correct, or completely nullify the original idea once the components have been clearly seen. But in the end, the mind is looking for the summation, the meaning, the principle – the whole.
Another way to put this is: the mind is looking for integration.
At both the perceptual and conceptual levels, the analysis phase – “take-it-apart” – is for seeing what the whole is made of; the “put-it-together” is the integration, but this time done with conscious awareness of the parts that create the whole and their relationships to each other.
This process of analysis and integration is the way I became consciously
clear about the automatic connections rapidly being made in my brain, and brought conscious judgment to bear on them. The term for conscious analysis of automatically connected ideas and the bringing of judgment to bear on them is “introspection”.
Introspection means looking inward. All consciously performed mental operations which are directed inward toward mental and emotional content and processes are introspective.
When you look inward to identify and analyze your specific intuitions and emotions to their roots, you are introspecting. Why do I believe X? Why do I feel Y? Is the information generating X and Y correct and enough? When you observe the processes of your mind and emotions, as in noticing the causal chain from information coming together to make meanings, meanings making feelings, etc., you are introspecting.
The purpose of looking inward may be to check the validity of the source of some particular automatic response, or to observe a mental/emotional process and identify in general how it works. My natural pleasure in examining my intuitions had finally led me to discover the causal chain from information to meaning to emotion and choices. The traumatic memory meeting new information had offered a particularly dramatic, easily observable example of the mental/emotional process-chain, and I had been eager to pin it down with words. Now I understood where the roots of meanings and feelings were – in information that came together in my mind – and this told me where to look to check the rightness of my intuitions and emotions. Now I understood the harmful consequences of not tracing (or not being able to trace) meanings and feelings to their roots. This discovery made it clear to me why introspection was important to “doing the right thing” and to happiness. It was so important, I promised myself to do it all the time.
A philosophy is an integrated set of principles regarding the nature of existence and the mind’s relationship to it (my definition). The purpose of philosophy (except for those who approach it as a game) is to provide the means to deal effectively with existence, to guide the mind in thinking, valuing, and choosing ends and means.
The new insights that I discovered during this episode were general principles that I wanted to keep as mental guides to help me “get the right meaning” and “do the right thing”. Although these ideas did not form a comprehensive philosophy, their nature and function were philosophical, nonetheless. And by formulating these principles in words, I began to build a conscious foundation of guiding ideas, derived from my own observations of how my mind worked in relation to existence.
My new guiding ideas fell into the philosophical categories of metaphysics, the nature of existence; epistemology, the nature of knowledge; and touched on ethics, the nature of right and wrong. I’ve arranged my age 2 principles from this episode into their philosophical categories, below.
“Things are the way they really are, whether I know it or not.”
This statement is about the nature of existence and the mind’s relationship to it. While bringing the mind into it hints at epistemology, this was primarily a statement of my metaphysical foundation (and the nature of the mind is part of the nature of existence).
When I said “Things are the way they really are” I meant that everything that exists is what it is and relates to other things in certain ways – works in certain ways. There are deadly diseases. There are shots to prevent people from getting the diseases. When Mommy let the doctor give me a shot, she had a loving reason – to prevent me from getting smallpox. These were the facts of the situation. They were real, they were what they were, even though I hadn’t known about them and had gotten the wrong meaning.
“Things are the way they really are…” was my “A is A” statement, my recognition of the Law of Identity. Existence is what it is and works they way it works, whether the mind grasps it rightly or not. This is opposed to the metaphysics that would hold reality to be a product of one’s subjective beliefs and desires. If I believe it, it is so.
With the metaphysical view “Things are the way they really are, whether I know it or not”, one has to work to examine one’s own beliefs and feelings in order to keep one’s mind consistent with reality, and must recognize and accept that errors are possible. With the opposing view, you would only have to believe what you want to believe. Making a conscious statement of the demanding, sovereign nature of reality and of the mind’s dependent relationship to it, making that fact explicit to oneself, is a major advance in any person’s development. It makes explicit something that has been implicit in one’s experience, something which has been demonstrated to you all your life, by life. But to state it outright, and to do it for the purpose of having a conscious guide for your mind, prepares a firm, conscious ground for the building of a guiding philosophy.
*You have to know enough to get the right meaning; you have to get the right meaning to feel the right feeling; you have to feel the right feeling to do the right thing. If you don‟t know enough, all the rest will be wrong.
*If you don‟t know enough to get the right meaning, you can’t figure out the right thing to do.
*You have to have words in order to learn enough to get the right meaning.
* You have to have words in order to make ideas clear.
* I need to ask as many questions as I can find in the facts that come together to make meaning. I mustn’t leave any holes unfilled.
* Thinking into things… and working hard to find everything there is to find, is what I should do… to have the best chance of knowing enough to get the right meaning.
* I have to keep going into things to find everything that’s in them.
* Facts come together to make a meaning; the meaning makes a feeling. That is where feelings come from.
* If the facts are wrong or not enough, you will get the wrong meaning and feel the wrong feeling.
* Feelings come from meaning.
* When I feel something, I need to pay attention to what meaning is making the feeling, and then what information made the meaning, and then check to see whether the information is right and enough. Because feelings can be wrong.
* If the facts are wrong, then you don’t know enough.
The most important epistemological elements of the statements I made to myself in this session were the identification of the relationship between facts, meaning, and feeling.
The upshot was the explicit statement that feelings can be wrong. They are not the basis of knowledge, but the result of information contained in your memory and what that information means to you. So you have to check the sufficiency of the information that made the meaning that made the feeling.
Note: The statements “You have to have words in order to learn enough to get the right meaning” and “You have to have words in order to make ideas clear” are not exact. You can get right meanings pre-verbally, provided the only information you need is what you can personally observe and remember. For example, at age six months I got the right meaning the time my mother was dressing to go outside, but didn’t bring “outside” clothes for me. Although I understood the word “outside” among the many unknown words she used to explain the situation, it was the visual clues and my mother’s emotional communication that enabled me to grasp that she was going outside without me, but it was okay – she would be back.(Vol. I, pg. 59) In the same episode I used a combination of physical action and directed attention in order to clarify that I was the only thing in the house capable of moving by itself. And at 8 months I wordlessly grasped and made clear to myself the fact of the passing of time. A responsive memory and visual imagery were all I needed for that job.(Vol. I, pg. 94)
At age two these examples of non-verbal understanding and many others were part of my remembered life. I knew in my infant background that I had gotten many meanings right without needing language. But when I formulated my statements about words, I was acknowledging there are right meanings that cannot be known without having words to
ask questions and gather enough information. And there are ideas too complex to clarify without language. The form of my statements on words, as I recall them, appear to mean that you cannot get right meanings without language, period. But that isn’t what I meant. I simply failed to put part of my awareness of the facts into words. I only put the implications of my infant error into words, my new discovery. “You have to have words in order to learn enough to get the right meaning” refers to situations such as getting a vaccination, where your sensory perception and non-verbal memory are not enough. It wasn’t meant to say that there are no situations in which they are enough. I knew what I meant. And that’s part of the trouble in communication as a young child dealing with complex ideas. I sometimes – perhaps often – only verbalized part of what I had in mind, even to myself. But I could “see” and knew more. Yes, at age two I saw that language was necessary to making my mental content clear to my conscious mind. No, I did not always succeed at putting everything present into words. But there was so much present, and it was a huge job to sort and verbalize as much as I did.
* Getting the right meaning… The most important new ethical content in this episode was my resolve to always make the effort to know enough to get the right meaning. I saw getting the right meaning as crucial to making choices that make happiness and to being just.
* “You have to do the right thing in order to make happiness.”
* ” …happiness is the point. Finding out how to be happy and doing it is the point. There’s no other reason to want to be alive.”
At age two I saw happiness as feeling good and unhappiness as feeling bad. But during this episode I also saw that happiness was the result of making things “work out well, the way I mean them to” and that achieving that required “enough” knowledge to get the right meaning. When I asked myself why happiness was important, I felt the complete misery from my infant trauma and knew that I couldn’t stand to live without happiness. Happiness was the point of living; there was no other reason to want to live. Happiness is the point.
That statement is ethical, in that it provides the end toward which ethics is the means.
* “I can’t do better than to try my best…”
I don‟t recall specific words for this idea, but I do remember the moment of panic when I saw that even if I tried my best, I still might make mistakes, and I resolved my panic with the above idea. This is an ethical issue because it pertains to being just to oneself (and by extension, to others) in regard to honest error. As I wrote in section VI, I was already familiar with the idea of justice by this time. I don‟t remember making any new, direct formulations about the nature of justice – no new definition of it. In fact, I don’t remember any previous formulations about justice, either. Not in specific words. I knew, however, that justice meant giving and getting what is deserved… though I don’t recall having had a verbal definition of “deserve”. ( I may have had one, but don‟t recall it.)
What I know that I had was extensive experience with the idea of justice/injustice through story examples. If I did not have a “justice” definition, my intuitive grasp of “justice” and “deserve” was, nevertheless, very good. When the vaccination trauma rose to the surface, I immediately saw that I’d done injustice to my mother. I also saw that it would be unjust to blame myself for that error because I hadn’t had the ability to know better. I had committed injustice in innocence. My sense is that I felt astonished when I saw that injustice could be committed in innocence. That idea may have been new. But I don’t remember making a general formulation about that or any other new justice formulations at this point.
These formulations and concerns were, as I said earlier, far from a comprehensive philosophy. But my mind was now engaged in the domain of philosophical questions and answers. I had been initiated into the realm.
XI. INTROSPECTION AND PHILOSOPHY
Elements that contributed to my interest in philosophical ideas included exposure to many stories and historical offerings from my adults, especially the provocative historical presentations made by my grandpa. Those sources provided material, as did my own direct experience with existence. The stories, both fictional and historical, engaged my mind and emotions, and introduced subjects packed with philosophic potential. But the key that opened my gate to the philosophic domain was introspection. My introspective interest was responsible for my philosophic interest.
My interest in learning about the world around me put content into memory. The memory content was triggered by and made connections with conscious content – with what my mind was focused on – intuitively creating implications, emotions, questions, and pertinent spontaneous imagery. It was my interest in exploring these fascinating new ideas and feelings, created by my own “inside mind”, that led to the philosophic issues explored during this episode. Looking inward to focus on my automatic mental creations led to explicit insights about where those creations came from, and how converging information led to meaning, meaning to feeling, and to action. And that led to the question of “ how do I make sure to know enough to get the right meaning?” and other important questions and insights. My interest in the surprising material that came spontaneously from my insides, as a result of what I had taken in from the outside, was the source of my readiness for philosophical exploration at such an early age.
My notice of internal events was present in my earliest memories. I shuttled between external and internal focus even in my first memory, and tried to grasp my internal events as well as my ability allowed. At age two, more complex implications, emotions, questions, and images came to mind, and I worked to find “everything that‟s in them”. In doing so, I began to discover philosophical issues and principles. As I discovered the issues and principles, I saw that they were important to my life. I needed them in order to use my mind properly and make good choices about what to do. During “Return of the Vaccination Trauma” I realized that my mind was not only giving me more information faster than ever before but, after having thought out numerous principles, I saw that I had made a change in the way I was thinking. I was discovering the rules (principles) “underneath” the facts, rules that I could find for myself to help me get the right meaning and to do the right thing. I was sure that I had reached a new level of mind, and that I would never be the same as I had been before.
My interest in looking outward had supplied the material, but my interest in looking inward led to the explicit identification of principles regarding the nature of existence, of mind, and of the relationship between the two. Introspection was crucial to my discovery that “you have to know enough to get the right meaning” and to my grasp of every insight that connected to that idea. Had I not made the effort to clarify the implications that flooded in on me from my “inside mind”, I would not have grasped the implication that context determines meaning, and that adequate context is necessary if the meaning you get is going to correspond to reality. Nor would I have grasped any of the other insights about the mind grasping reality or about happiness, nor would I have put my basic metaphysical principle into words.
Philosophy deals with both the nature of existence and the nature of the mind’s grasping the nature of existence. Without the ability for and interest in introspection – in
observing and understanding the processes of your mind – you cannot discover the relationships necessary to abstract philosophical principles and to begin to build a philosophical structure. My subconscious (automatic) processes were so active and “loud” that even in infancy I could not help but notice them. I seem to have been temperamentally disposed to focus on what I noticed and to try to “get” everything about it that I could.
Given the amount and type of information made available to me by my adults, my ability to recall episodes from infancy, the prolific and vivid activity of my automatic processes, and my temperamental inclination to want to grasp and identify everything, it is not so surprising that it would all add up to introspection and the beginnings of philosophical thinking, early. Any one or all of the ingredients may be surprising, but given those components, the outcome should not raise an eyebrow. By the time I remembered the vaccination, all the components for a philosophical flood were just waiting for a signal, a key. Recalling the infant trauma and seeing my infant conclusions in a new context was the key to opening the floodgates of philosophical exploration at that particular time.
XII. FROM IMPLICIT TO EXPLICIT
“And now I see the source of all of this, the fact underneath everything else: Things are the way they really are whether I know it or not… I know that already, but it’s been in the back of my mind. I’ve never said it to myself before. Now I’ve put it into words and it stands out.” (pg. 45, this vol.)
When I refer to an idea as “implicit”, I mean that it is implied by information you already know, but you have not yet consciously grasped it. It might be that none of the requisite connections have been made, or your “automatic mind” may have made some connections, an intuitive idea may exist in the background, but you have not consciously examined it. Either way, you have collected enough material to be able to discover the implications, if your attention turns that way. You just have not consciously stuck a pin in them. The more thoroughly you analyze an idea, the more explicit it becomes to you. So there is a continuum from the implications of which you are totally unaware to the fully explicit awareness resulting from thorough analysis. As a result of my remembering the vaccination episode and the dramatic flooding of implications into consciousness, making the implicit explicit became an intentional policy: I have to keep going into things to find everything that’s in them. In other words, making the implicit explicit became an explicit policy, framed in words.
That policy had been implicit, unexamined, just my way of dealing with my mind, for all of my remembered life. (Although in infancy I could not frame ideas in words, I tried for the most explicit grasp I could get with the non-verbal means that occurred to me.) Making the implicit explicit is the work of introspection, with which I’ve dealt a great deal already regarding this episode. But here I want to focus on the awareness I had as I was living the episode that there were ideas present of which I had had a background sense for a long time, but which I’d never explored or put into words. And as I stood there in the living room, pinning down idea after idea, I was sharply aware of the automatic process, the implication-making process, that was alerting me to something to examine.
This process, I saw, happens on its own. It’s the function of the “inside mind” that responds to what the “outside mind” is doing. I knew that if I did not consciously examine the implications offered me by my inside mind, they would be in my background, but not clear to my outside mind. They may be correct or mistaken, but they would be there in the back of my mind, the way background from babyhood was there.
There was a moment, as I stood in the midst of the plethora, when I realized that now that I had language, there were a lot of questions, feelings, knowledge and perhaps beliefs that I had gathered inside me all through babyhood, that my inside mind had been putting together all along, which had not been looked at in the explicit way that I was practicing now. I had not put these implicit ideas into words and made them stand out to my outside mind. I’d captured ideas as well as a baby could, when I could, but now it was time to put the wordless ideas into words. At last I had realized that, before I’d had words, the inside mind had made connections, just as it was doing now, but back then I couldn’t pin down and examine, I couldn’t “go into them” as I was doing now. Now all that old stuff was waiting to be brought into my new world of language.
I was very aware that the inside connector would keep connecting and making feelings and creating background whether I examined it or not. And I was also aware that it had been doing so all along, and that there was a backlog of material that had not been examined yet. The old implicit material was beginning to be made explicit. And I was aware of this as part of the “step up” that I was taking that day. I knew this was a big deal.
NOTES ON THE QUOTE AND THE LAW OF IDENTITY I opened the above section with a quote that illustrates the topic well: “And now I see the source of all of this, the fact underneath everything else: Things are the way they really are whether I know it or not… I know that already, but it’s been in the back of my mind. I’ve never said it to myself before. Now I’ve put it into words and it stands out.” (pg. 45, this vol.)
However, when I said (essentially) this to myself as a little kid, I didn’t include the fact that the same idea – “Things are the way they really are” (the Law of Identity) – had been expressed to me in some verbal form by my adults. They had discussed cause and effect and the fiction of magic. They had pointed out that things work in a certain way and you have to learn what that way is and use the knowledge to make things work for you.
So the quote that opens “From Implicit to Explicit” is an example of a re-discovery of something that I already knew, and its spontaneous verbalization in my own words, probably for the first time. This is the verbal formulation that stuck, the one I found by myself. But it was not the first verbal expression of the Law of Identity that I had encountered.
Did I need to have had an explicit naming of this principle in order to explicitly identify ideas based on it? I suspect not.
Even before language, a mind functions on an intuitive awareness of the Law of Identity every time it explores the world around it. Every time a baby bangs an object, shakes it, beats on it, etc., to find out what results, the infant mind is engaged in an objective effort to discover what is. Things work a certain way. What is that way ? I shake my rattle, it makes a rattling sound. I shake my rubber bunny, it makes a weak squeaky sound.
Regardless of whether the Law of Identity is first stated to you by others or you beat them to it, you do a great deal of discovery about identities before you learn the words to state this axiom. Simply by being conscious of existence, your mind is aware of identity – every thing is something, with its own properties which you set out to explore.
Every idea I worked out in this episode, from my recognition of the infant error to all of the conclusions and questions that resulted, depended on my understanding that “things are the way they really are, whether I know it or not.” Whether named explicitly or not, “things are the way they really are” was already the foundation of my mind. It was implied by my entire background of memory.
Beginning in infancy, my life had been about observing existence, finding out the properties of a multitude of objects, what they do, how they work, and what happens when they interact with various other objects. So the fact that “things are the way they really are” was demonstrated to me over and over. The demonstrations collected in memory, forming a background that wordlessly implied this meaning about existence and my mind’s relationship to it.
So even before language, my mind was functioning on the implicit premise that things are what they are, and that it could find out about them. Once I had language, my adults explained how various things worked, and that magic – making things happen by wishing – couldn’t happen. They explained that in order to make things work the way you want them to, you have to find out how they work, and put them together in ways that achieve your ends. There’s no magical shortcut, no spells, no fairy godmothers. My own experiences with learning about existence and the explanations offered by adults all added up to the same metaphysical fundamental. So not only was the principle implicit, but it had also been stated to me by others (although not in the same form that arose from my independent exploration of ideas).
With that fundamental idea in my background, I explored and verbalized the new ideas implied by my six-month-old mind meeting age two. After I had done that, I noticed and stated the fundamental premise that was “underneath everything else,” realizing that it was the most fundamental fact underneath my new ideas. It was a premise that I’d known wordlessly for a long time, and one that had been stated to me in a different form by others. But when I stated it in this episode, I saw it fresh, implied by all the ideas I had been deriving that afternoon. I identified the principle in my own way, with my own formulation.
But could I have derived the ideas of this episode without having been verbally introduced to the Law of Identity? Could I have seen that I’d made a mistake about the shot?
Yes. All that that required was the infant belief meeting the age two understanding of shots. The learning experience took off from there. The Law of Identity could have been as implicit in my background as it had been during my infant learning, and still I would have been able to derive everything from my infant error meeting greater context of knowledge. The Law of Identity is so fundamental, the mind takes it for granted and can learn many ideas dependent on that law before it thinks to verbalize this pervasively experienced, fundamental fact.
But what about less obvious facts and connections? Can implicit ideas less obvious than the Law of Identity be overlooked while the mind consciously examines ideas dependent on them?
I think so.
In this episode, as became common at this stage, new ideas branched off of each other very fast and sometimes would set off digressions into other areas (which could be explored right then or set aside). My whole memory seemed to respond to the object of my conscious focus, and new ideas budded and branched faster than I could examine and secure them. In the speed of that subconscious process I could pick one at random to “go into.” With this rapid-fire connection process, with ideas occurring too fast to consciously pin them down the first time, I think it is possible to work on an idea higher up in a hierarchy, to make it explicit, before verbalizing one lower down. But this is because the lower down principle has already been summed up, implied, by the content of memory making automatic connections and implications. The conscious mind can grab a thought in the midst of the speedy intuitive connection process (which may work hierarchically, but so rapidly that it’s hard to follow it) and work upward or downward from there.
So I think it is possible to grab and explore a higher concept and afterward notice and state a more fundamental one – and see that it was “underneath”, foundational for, the rest of the ideas one has worked through. It depends on whether the subconscious has
already connected the more fundamental idea or not. If the idea exists intuitively, but you simply have not examined it explicitly, I think you can work from a dependent concept down to its foundation.
XIII. OLD IDEAS DISCOVERED NEW
Sometimes what seems at first like a new idea is actually an idea you’ve encountered before, discovered fresh. One idea in this episode that I know was not entirely new was “happiness is the point of life.” From my grandpa‟s explanation about discoverers and inventors and the founding of a free country, I had understood — through imagination and my own love of learning – how miserable it would be to want to discover truth about existence and to create, but to be bullied away from it or punished for it. “The pursuit of happiness” as the point of life was introduced during that lesson.
But in the present episode I discovered that life purpose anew, derived from my own personal background, when I asked myself why I felt being happy was important, and let myself feel the misery of the infant trauma. That was unhappiness, and I couldn’t stand to live in that desolate state. When I said to myself that happiness is the point of life, it seemed like a fresh insight.
And as I pointed out in section XII above, “Things are the way they really are” was not a brand-new discovery for me, either. The wordless awareness that existence has its own way of being and that my mind’s job is to learn about it, was present even in episode one. (Vol.I, pg.21)
But this principle had also been verbalized by my adults, who had often assured me that magic – making things happen by spells, wishing, believing – can‟t really happen. You have to find out how things work in order to figure out how to make them work for you. During the present episode I saw that the fact beneath all the new lessons was “Things are the way they really are, whether I know it or not,” and I spontaneously stated this idea in my own words. I knew, at the time, that it wasn’t new to me, yet in the first moment it thrilled me like a fresh discovery.
The fully new discovery that stands out in this episode was the chain of insights regarding “knowing enough”: that meaning, emotion, and action arise from information coming together in the mind, and that if the information is inadequate to get the right meaning, the rest of the chain will be wrong. I’d been experiencing this chain all my remembered life, and had noticed new meanings coming from memory plus conscious content, but I had not put it into words and had never sorted out the links of the process chain, had not consciously pinned down where emotions, reactions and actions come from, nor identified the need to know enough. That was definitely a new batch of insights.
But often an old bit of knowledge comes again in a fresh way. Sometimes it arises anew, in a new context, and momentarily it seems firstborn.
And when you find an old idea again on your own in an original way, it sometimes takes a little while before you realize you already knew it.
I wonder if that sense of newness has a biological basis? My intuition about this may be false or of little use, but I’ll mention it here for whatever it might be worth. When you rediscover an old idea from new ground, as I did in this episode, it seems likely that you are creating the idea again in another set of neurons, growing it organically in a new process of thought derived from a new source. This is in contrast to triggering the original version (which would result in recognition) and then growing new connections with it.
When you re-discover an idea from a new place – literally – in the brain, you might not immediately recognize that you’ve already had that idea, because it hasn’t grown from or connected with the first encoded form of it, yet. And you feel all the thrill of original discovery, because mentally and biologically you’ve just been through the discovery process, including the bang of fresh connections.
Then as you focus on the new old idea, the old memory may be triggered in recognition: “Hey! I knew that!” But now you know it again, through a new path.
During the present episode, as the two-year-old me derived the ideas, they were surprising and fresh to me, growing organically from the clash of infant experience against my age two knowledge. Ideas grew from that clash, and then from each other. And during that process all the ideas seemed brand-new, but only some of them were without precedent in my mind.