Monday, December 28, 2009

the horizoning child

Somewhere in the late 1970s, a profound little cartoon that I treasured appeared on a magazine page. I believe it was a New Yorker cartoon, but I haven’t found it in available anthologies of New Yorker cartoons.

Like the Russian doll within a doll within a doll, the cartoon on a black background is firstly, in the center of the frame, a little white-line drawing of a very old man sitting cross-legged on the Earth. (He covers the entire Arctic area of the globe), taking up 10% maybe of the space, his back to the viewer, as we see him over his right shoulder, with some profile of his face, as he is looking up, as if into the black horizon (which is speckled with stars). He’s sitting inside a larger line drawing of a middle-aged man in the same cross-legged pose, who is sitting within a drawing of a young man, sitting inside a boy inside an infant. The old man sees the cosmos through the eyes of the middle-aged man seeing the cosmos, etc., etc., through the infant.

For the most part, we adults see as we proximally are (relative to near-to-mind dailiness), but intensity of feeling peels away boundaries of time constituting our presumptions, our capabilities, our talents, our being.

The blastula grows by flowering in on itself, out of the horizon of the ovum. The embryo differentiates into itself, gaining cellular complexity, and the fetus, eons of generations later (relative to cellular geneses), rests within the horizon of its ingrown, recursive epigenesis, a generation of its being—beginning an ontogeny of years— out of its horizonality that will be called its temperament or its genetic nature (but a character shaped by unfathomable hormonal orchestrations composed and timed genomically). By birth, it’s already been months into listening and feeling through its literal horizon (the womb) that is the split-off remnant of its ontogenic horizonality (and temperament), increasingly entertained by the containing feeler listening through its containment, eyes closed but awake more and more.

Birth is no beginning, just a passage. Temperament will always, to some important degree, contain capacity for trust, which will contain the toddler’s desire for autonomy, which will contain the child’s sense of purpose, which will contain capability, containing the teen’s fidelity, containing adult love, containing parental care, containing elderly wisdom.

Of course each expresses its own integrity: Wisdom is somehow born out of our humanity, not primarily contained by one’s individuated past, as attaining discovers, not merely inheriting. At best, adulthood is no simple recapitulation of our parents’ lives; adolescence no mere extension of childhood. Psychoanalysis was always about a lack of futurity prevailing over pastness in our endeavoring presence.

Yet, one is a legacy mirrored in the appeals of the days. From infancy onward, growing habits of attentiveness, of noticing, construct a horizon of relevances and interconnections of relevances. Its horizonal legacy of reliable feeling horizons confidence for efficacious orientations of activity. That horizons good intuition for the sake of valuing and preference. At best, good flow of feeling is easily inhabited by flows of life and world. Capability for focused action may flow easily into thinking well together or flow into creativity composing a well-growing sense of being, which makes a good point in the pointillism of a good society. In our growing well, point to point, interpointing and horizoning each other, one at best gains depth of time and energy for easy generosity, and for time enough to authentically appreciate others’ genuine presence. At best, desire—exuberant and passionate—keeps faith with our potential (a destined fallibility that loves to learn) and sustains the best scale of loving life that one can.

Here, I’m improvising on my own horizonality, not suggesting some doctrine of Being. At best, one’s child finds her or his ownmost sense of trust, autonomy, initiative, capability, identity, intimacy, productivity, and integrity. (Erik Erikson’s sense of the life cycle provides a reliable sense of the healthy lifespan.) A concerted parent might thrive on love of surprise by whom one’s child is endeavoring to become; and love unanticipated insight into their growing their own responsible freedom.

There’s just no boundary on what can be said about good enough parenting for the sake of a miraculous child’s flourishing. Perhaps a prevailing rule might be to accept your fallibility and trust your child’s capacity to gain resilience.

Yet, remember: Like the womb’s genesis of the fetus out of its horizon (eonically genomic), the tissue of Earth’s atmosphere generated life out of its own generated horizon. The goddess Gaia rules. It really was Mother Nature bearing Father Time out of life’s horizonality.