We bought a big semi-transparent plastic box in which to stash Adam’s growing stash of toys – his treasures, except that Adam is still too young to have even a glimmering of the meaning of primitive economics and its symbols Although perhaps it is I who am the prisoner of my concepts, here, since Adam thinks through his body as the neurons bloom there way inside, and he immediately knew that this box was itself a toy. It quickly became one of his favorites (besides the quickly snatched away electric chords and the dustpan that he has access to when his parents let down their guard and allows him in the kitchen).Adam uses the sides of the box to pull himself almost all the way to a standing position, and there he will totter for a moment, and then come down with a plop back into sitting position, pulling the box with him. At a tilt, all the objects in the box are accessible to his probing hands, and so the fun begins. Gently burbling to himself – and sometime making loud squawking sounds or ak ak sounds, as if disagreeing with someone – he’ll pull the things out.
The pulling out is what interests him. Once they are out, he has a way of casting them aside with a perfect indifference that would break Melanie Klein’s heart. This is not the angry flinging away of breast substitutes, condemning the male child to futile quests and depression in the life-course. No, this is something else – this is the beginning of style.
Style, after all, is merely the ritualization of selection. The very emblem of style is the way the practiced smoker, having consumed as much as he wants of the cigarette, flicks away the butt. Now, Adam’s way of flinging things shouldn’t be mixed together as though it were one gesture. There is, for instance, the way he will simply drop over his shoulder the things that we thrust upon him that interest him in no way shape or form. Heartbreakingly, the soft animal dolls don't even get tossed over the shoulder, but are dropped immediately on the floor – Adam, from the heights of his baby futurism, has no time for the bourgeois fetishes of his parents. On the other hand, a plastic cap – ah, the functionality of it – will fascinate him. He’ll tenderly turn it around, and then gingerly put it in his mouth, unless his uncomprehending parents snatch it from him first.
The end result of the plastic box game looks, to me, like the pointless strewing of objects across the room. But what exactly is a “point” – and isn’t that suspension of the point what style is all about? The point as I clumsily cling to it is some catch in the structure that entropy has inexorably condemned to dissipation. Or something like that. Adam, however, is unperturbed by the adult panic codified in the purpose. Nor is this strewing a fort/da strewing. Fort/da objects are special things, like the pacifier. He’s simply squandered his treasure and moved on, hunter gatherer style. And what lottery ticket winner among us can blame him?