What in particular do children know that adults forget? For some clues, google [Kids face up to disgust surprisingly late]. Consider this excerpt from Science News:
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. 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 guides our journey from here into adulthood sophistication. As we come out from under the protective wing of our parents, we increasingly face the unknown, somewhat as chapter 15 describes,
Falling apart like thawing ice; Thick like the uncarved block;
Vacant like a valley; Murky like muddy water
We shore our psyche up by cognitively severing experience into bits and pieces—names and ideas. In a sense, we offset our deep insecurity by dividing and conquering nature via knowledge. We admire the clever among us who excel at this, and overlook the downsides. As chapter 18, observes, When cleverness emerges, There is great hypocrisy. The inherent great hypocrisy reveals that this doesn’t actually boost true security. In fact, our journey only ends when we arrive back at the beginning, as chapter 10 suggests, When your discernment penetrates the four quarters, Are you capable of not knowing anything? Names and words allow us to miss the forest for the trees by making imaginary mountains out of reality’s molehills. Little wonder this fails to work in the long run.
It’s ironic how children know when they are playing games and that games are pretend. Children use adults as an anchoring point of reference to help them see their game as a game. Adults have no superior adult to serve this anchoring function. As a result, adults forget they are playing the game of life. This is likely one reason we invented “God” and other high status role models that culture esteems and we follow, e.g., sages, gurus, movie stars, athletes, statesmen, heroes, kings.
Is chapter 65 candidly referring to those cultural elites and role models when it notes… Of old those who excelled in the pursuit of the way did not use it to enlighten the people but to hoodwink them? It would appear that this hoodwinking only increases the game of life’s illusions as we adopt culture’s taboos, traditions, and myths. Chapter 19 pushes back on any notion that our cultural elites add real value to the people, albeit, perhaps somewhat tongue in cheek.
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.
Leave a Reply