How To Be a Self-Centered Baby and Develop an Interiority Complex
Ever since Future Leader was conceived, he has been on the hyperactive side, both in the watery medium of the intrauterine world and the gaseous medium of this one. He was constantly banging away in the former -- as if he couldn't wait to get into the next world -- but has been the same way in this world. In fact, if we had taken our eyes off of him for 30 seconds, he would probably have been in the extra-extrauterine world by now. He is always trying to push beyond his edge of competence.
He became especially relentless once he learned how to crawl, which I believe was by about late November 2005. Things only escalated when he learned how to walk, which would have been in around May 2006. From the start, he attempted -- constantly -- to crawl before he could move, to walk before he could stand, and to run before he could walk. His restless search went on from the moment he opened his eyes until the moment he fell asleep, and his hands had a life of their own. Literally. Even while pausing to eat, one hand would prop up the bottle while the other groped around, looking for whatever. He was half kitten, half monkey. Imagine the nightmare of a kitten with opposable thumbs, and you appreciate God's mercy.
Now, although we really had no explicit expectations, this is not what I had envisioned when I was forcing Mrs. G. to eat all those Omega 3 eggs during her pregnancy in order to enhance Future Leader's brain development. Nor is it the purpose of attachment parenting, the point of which is to lavishly indulge (so to speak) the infant on the front end so as to create a strong and secure foundation on the back end.
Now, Future Leader has always been bright, funny, and very engaged, but perhaps not as "centered" as one might have hoped. But in the last two weeks, something in his brain development clicked into place, and it has been a wonder to behold. He is suddenly calm, centered, and able to imaginatively play by himself and sustain his attention for hours instead of seconds.
Yesterday I took him to the park, and it was the most extraordinary thing. He got out of the stroller, calmly walked over to the little motorcycle (which is connected to a spring so they can rock back and forth) and just sat there. For 45 minutes. I sat there with him perhaps 15 - 20 feet away and just watched. It was not as if he were bored. Rather, he was totally engaged, calmly observing the swirling activity round him, checking out the other kids, looking up at the clouds, occasionally looking at me, smiling beatifically, now and again rocking back and forth.
It is difficult -- probably impossible -- for me to convey, but there was such a calm but palpable presence radiating from his interior, from the inside out. I could actually feel it coming out of his eyes and entering mine -- which triggered immediate laughter on my part -- as if it were a literal exchange of energy (which I believe it was) tickling my insides. If you've ever noticed the difference between the eyes of a reptile and the eyes of a mammal -- say Mike Tyson vs. a cow -- you know what I'm talking about. In the latter, you can "see" a more developed kind of consciousness.
As I have mentioned before, one of the things that characterizes human consciousness is the ability to "mind read," that is, to experience the interior of another. This is the whole basis of empathy, of counter-transference in psychotherapy, and of intimate communication in general. It is why words may be unnecessary in a particularly deep relationship, because you can directly relate "interior to interior."
As a matter of fact -- this is a bit of a tangent -- I am quite sure that this factored into my relatively late-in-life desire to have children. I was never part of a big family, in that my father's side is back in England, while there are just a couple of distant cousins on my mother's side. I lost my parents when I was a relatively young adult -- yes, I looked under the refrigerator -- and two of my three brothers are estranged from me due to issues of their own. Still, I very much enjoyed that unglishable feeling of what it felt like to be a part of a family when I was growing up -- the wordless "interior connection," so to speak -- and I knew that children are the last word in wordless connections. It was as if one day I woke up and realized that this dimension was missing from my life. The issue was not so much children per se, as the interior connectedness they engender, if I may put it in a weirdly clinical way.
Anyway, as to the cosmic significance of all this, I cannot think of a greater gift that a parent could bestow upon a child than the firm and secure presence of a calm center through which life may be lived from the inside out. Most people live their lives from the outside in, which is what causes the frantic, lifelong search for something that will finally bring peace and tranquility. But as all religious traditions teach, this calm center cannot be found in the horizontal. Rather, you will only become further lost and entangled. The prodigal son, and all that.
It is the difference between the dispersal and the centration of consciousness. For example, when one thinks of Jesus, or Buddha, or Lao Tsu, it is unthinkable that they were possessed of a restless, externalized, and dispersed consciousness. In fact, I imagine that to have looked into the eyes of Jesus would have been literally -- for how could it not be so? -- to have looked into the very depthless center of creation.
Not to conflate spiritual categories, but this is also true, to a lesser extent, of any genuine saint, guru, or spiritual teacher. As I have mentioned before, I keep a number of darshan pictures and photos on my desk, and consult with them on a regular basis. And when I say "consult," all Raccoons should know what I mean and not think me bonkers.
According to Schuon, darshan is not just "the contemplation of a saint, or of a man invested with a priestly or princely authority," but "the contemplation of the Divine in nature or in art." It is "the visual assimilation of celestial qualities; the ideal being the coincidence between an object that manifests beauty or spirituality and a subject gifted with nobleness and depth, hence gratitude. And this is also the quasi-alchemical meaning of sacred art in all its forms."
For example, this is the whole point of the ikons of Orthodox Christianity. In his wonderful book The Orthodox Way, Bishop Kallistos Ware notes that the seventh Ecumenical Council of 787 proclaimed that "since Christ became true man, it is legitimate to depict his face upon the holy ikons; and, since Christ is one person and not two, these ikons do not just show us his humanity in separation from his divinity, but they show us the one person of the eternal Logos incarnate." Eventually we may even realize that "Christ is looking at us through the eyes of all those whom we meet."
Ware writes of the more general principle embodied in the ikons: true mysticism involves the discovery of "the extraordinary in the ordinary," the ability to "see all things, persons, and moments as signs and sacraments of God." In our spiritual vision we see things in their metaphysical transparency, as "each points beyond itself to him who made it."
The task before us, according to Eckhart's disciple Henry Suso, is "to see the inward in the outward": 'He who can see the inward in the outward, to him the inward is more inward than to him who can only see the inward in the inward." This is to "look at nature with the eyes of Adam in paradise," to see "that the whole universe is a cosmic Burning Bush, filled with the divine Fire yet not consumed." Or, to quote Eckhart himself, "He who abides always in a present now, in him does God beget his Son without ceasing."
I am always puzzled by atheists and other materialists who downplay the significance of the earth and of human consciousness, as if Kepler or Darwin actually succeeded in displacing the human drama from the very center of creation. True, if one looks at the cosmos horizontally, then the "temporal center" would be approximately 7 billion years ago. It is impossible to say where the "spatial center" would be -- apparently it is everywhere and nowhere -- but all we know is that the edge is billions of light years away in every direction.
However, if we view the cosmos vertically and hierarchically, then human beings are obviously at its very center -- as the heart is the center of the body, humans are the heart of the cosmos. Or, to be perfectly accurate, being that we are in the image of the creator, we represent "the center at the periphery," as Schuon has written. If you imagine a pyramid or a cone, then the vertical center runs from the tip to the base, not along the base. It is this vertical center that human beings are privileged to inhabit at one point or another along its continuum.
Evolution in the spiritual sense -- as in Saint Paul's three-part evolution from infant to child to man -- involves increased interiority and centration as we ascend vertically. As this occurs, the dispersal of consciousness that is responsible for "maya," or attachment to the unreal, is naturally countered. In other words, an inevitable consequence of our dispersed consciousness is that we will more or less frantically search for our center at the periphery. The one is a function of the other.
Likewise, as we increasingly locate, develop, and live within our center, we inevitably discover that it overlaps with God's peaceful center, which is sat-chit-ananda, or being-consciousness-bliss, or love-truth-beauty. I hope it goes without saying that this kind of "self-centeredness" has nothing in common with narcissism, which appropriates the "radiation" of others in order to create a false center within the narcissist. The narcissistic center feeds on others, while the true spiritual center radiates and nourishes others.
Which is why it was such a delight to see Future Leader radiating from his newly developing center.
Don't panic. Let the game come to you (click to expand):
"Looking into the eyes of eternity."