One of our favorite games is “Baby Paradigm Shift.” Clara has figured out how to stack her wooden donuts, and in the same way that some check their portfolios or read the paper or drink coffee every morning, Clara pulls out her donuts and gives them a couple good stackings to feel ready for the day. At night after the dishes are washed and we have nothing else to do but play with Clara until she’s tired and we can lay her down and watch old episodes of Dexter, we’ll put foreign objects on the donut stick to watch Clara negotiate the terms of her new universe. As she figures out that donuts do not fit over big red balls like they do cylindrical sticks, and that she can get what she wants not just by crying but by thinking it through, we look at each other, astounded at the development of the mind.
In Clara, we see the chicken-egg face-off between mind and experience: what comes first, experience or the conscious interpretation of it? Do our minds control our experiences or do our experiences shape the way we think? Well, sure, both, but only two things make Clara cry: pain and rejection. Albeit, everything that makes us cry probably lives under the very large umbrella of rejection. Still, she doesn’t seem to cry from a sense of entitlement or because she has been wronged. She doesn’t cry until discomfort becomes pain. For the most part, she doesn’t have an intellectual relationship to her own tears. Her experience isn’t narrated . . . yet.
The mind’s control over experience can get pretty powerful. For instance, it wasn’t exactly a mole fairy that came to take my mole with sweet, soft fairy fingers: it was a scalpel and scary rubber gloves. Whatever they used to numb my neck, however, is a lot like fairy fingers. I didn’t feel a thing. But I still had to drink tap water and read a Rolling Stone article about Steven Tyler to keep from fainting. I almost fainted from not feeling or seeing anything. The understanding that I was gushing blood and should be in pain was enough to make me so lightheaded that not one but two pairs of rubber gloves came in to check on me a couple pictures into the Tyler expose.
The implications of this seem huge, but for now, a video: