Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Apple or Pear?

This is a typical baby mealtime conversation. Hikaru would say, "Apple!" while looking at the pear sitting on the dinner table. We say, "Not apple, pear!" After a slight pause, Hikaru says "Pear!" knowing that he was corrected. Maybe to Hikaru, everything edible, rounded in shape, and sweet in taste, is like an apple -- associated in his mind, but we give these various fruits different names.

Training for categorical thinking starts early, I guess, and there's no escape from it in our use of language. Language is quite useful for human communication and thinking. But adults (like us) find it convenient to file away thoughts neatly in containers, even when they don't really fit well. And then we look for other boxes, and put boxes within boxes, to refine our sorting process.

Someone once asked, "Is Hikaru Japanese, Chinese, or American?" I suppose, he could all of those if one is talking about the ethnic cultural identity boxes and the family influences being passed on to him. He's also "Los Angelino". He's a unique guy with his own 20+ months of experience too, so he's part "Hikaru-an". And we might add some African as well, if we're talking about human ancestral origins. Does it matter?

Yes, it matters we need to calculate our mental sorting process, but otherwise maybe not so in reality. I wonder how much our use of language, and the classification system of "naming things", distorts our way of understanding the fuzzy dynamic intangible realities in the world -- like people and the quantum universe.

Perhaps poetry and speaking with metaphor and simile, is more of the answer to our communication issues than a literal legal document. So the next time Hikaru says "Apple!", we'll understand more deeply that what he's really means, and we'll say "OK".

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