What in particular do children know that adults forget? A recent article in Science News, Young kids can’t face up to disgust give some clues. Consider this excerpt:
Kids viewed images on a computer screen of adults displaying the six basic emotional expressions. The kids’ task was to assign faces to boxes at the bottom of the screen that had been designated for specific emotions, such as an “angry” box. The boxes were tagged with written labels for older children; the researchers read the expression names to younger subjects.
At age 2, children’s accuracy was limited to putting happy faces in a “happy” box. Toddlers treated all negative emotional expressions as being angry.
Shortly after age 3, an appreciation of sad faces emerged. About a year later, kids could accurately identify angry faces and had generally stopped putting faces with other negative expressions into the angry box. Correct designations of other facial expressions soon followed, with comprehension of disgusted faces appearing last.
Kids get it! Whatever pleases us attracts us; whatever pains us repels us. That is true for all animals, isn’t it? Certainly, dogs, ants, and paramecium share this same attraction vs. aversion dynamic of life. Happy faces result when we are pleased. Unhappy faces result when we are not. These are the two sides of nature, the iconic yin vs. yang — the good vs. bad, beauty vs. ugly, love vs. hate. This dynamic drives and directs all living beings throughout life.
As young children, before thinking complicates our intuition, we see the world simply and more like other animals. I suspect fear underlies our journey into adulthood’s increasing sophistication. As we come out from under the secure wing of our parents, we increasingly face the unknown. We begin to feel an uncertainty that chapter 15 describes well,
We cognitively sever experience into smaller and smaller bits — names. Names are ‘things’ that cognition can hold onto for self-security. We admire the intelligent among us who excel at this, and ignore the downside of cleverness. As chapter 18, notes, When cleverness emerges, There is great hypocrisy. We end up missing the forest for the trees as we make imaginary mountains out of reality molehills. This would be fine if it actually succeeded in imparting self-security. In fact, the journey ends when we arrive back at the beginning, as chapter 10 hints, When your discernment penetrates the four quarters, Are you capable of not knowing anything?
I’ve always found it ironic how children know when they are playing games and it’s pretend. Children can use adults as an anchoring point of reference to help them know their games are not reality. This helps them see their game as a game. Adults, having no ‘super adult’ to serve as an anchoring point of reference, have difficulty knowing they are also playing a game — a game of life. Perhaps ‘super adults’ are the folks we esteem for their status in the cultural hierarchy, e.g., sages, gurus, saints, prophets, movie stars, athletes, heroes, kings, gods, etc. Chapter 65 candidly wakes us up… Of old those who excelled in the pursuit of the way did not use it to enlighten the people but to hoodwink them.
The hoodwink fails to work as well as those “of old” might wish. If anything, it increases the game’s illusion as we adopt our culture’s taboos, traditions, and myths. Chapter 19 offers a ruthless, although obviously tongue in cheek, solution.
Exterminate the sage, discard the wise,
And the people will benefit a hundredfold;
Exterminate benevolence, discard rectitude,
And the people will again be filial;
Exterminate ingenuity, discard profit,
And there will be no more thieves and bandits.