“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Friday, September 12, 2014

sounds

Kant, in one of his obscure works (an essay entitled Speculations on the Beginning of Human History) writes that communication begins in the human desire to spread abroad one’s ego.
“ The instinct to communicate must first have moved the solitary person to proclaim his existence to  other living creatures outside them, chiefly to those who produced a sound which he imitated and which he by and by used as a name. A similar effect of this instinct can be seen even now in children and thoughtless people, who through snarling, screaming, whistling, singing, and other noisy activities (and also similarly in likeminded groups) disturb the more thoughtful part of the community. Because I see no other motivation here than that they want to proclaim their existence all over the place.”

In this passage, as in so much of the Gesammelte Werke of I. Kant, one sees the outlines of the rather sour Konigsberg bachelor emerging from beneath the verbiage of the scholar and one time Pietist. However, even though I can’t imagine that Kant ever paid too much attention to children, especially the whistling ones, there is certainly something in the idea that communication – or rather, utterance, soundmaking – derives originally from the instinct of self-assertion. Self aggrandizement. Snarling, whistling, singing and other noisy activities make one bigger. I would add cursing, which is definitely the way adults make themselves bigger, and shouting.
Since Adam has been going to school, and his mornings and afternoons have been peeled away from his Pop’s, he’s becoming much more verbal. He is full of surprises, coming out with thank you Dadi when I change his diaper (and I am told he said this, too, to Miss Tawana at school when she similarly cleaned him up) morning when I wheel him in the stroller in what is, indeed, morning, duck and truck and my. Oh what a lot of  my-s, settling especially around my ball.  Still, these words and phrases are caught in his other sounds, his private language, which is a crossword puzzle of sounds, the clues to which are too obscure for me to decypher them.
In the passage from Kant, one notices the subtle and not wholly coherent switch between imitation and assertion. This, too, is consistent with what I’ve seen with Adam. I can spend five minutes saying something that Adam will refuse to repeat after me – happy birthday, Maman, or toy, etc. – and then there will be times that Adam catches me by surprise by repeating after me when I was not trying to get him to repeat after me – especially when I am cussing for some reason. But mostly, Adam will address me with his blue gaze and go off into a presentation of obviously  conversationally purposed but purely opaque phonetic strings. The intonations are recognizable: question, statement, kidding, story.  And then there are the sounds that obviously he likes because he can make them - not crying, which is an ambiguous object (it makes you bigger to show that you are smaller), but screams and whoops that accompany a lot of running around and giggling. I love these sounds. I love all of Adam's sounds, really. And this is in contradiction to the global tendency of my old age, which is increasingly intolerant of noise, especially in restaurants (which I think of as an American disease, spreading across the world - the way everybody at every table screams like they want to get a message across to the viewing audience. There is no viewing audience, honey.)
I have doubts this makes me one of the thoughtful people in the community. It is sheer age and grouchiness.

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