Children Invent Things: Venice, Determinism, Bach

Before I knew that there was a country called Italy, before I knew the word philosophy, let alone Plato or Socrates, before I had touched classic literature or become addicted to the internet, I liked to daydream. I still do, of course, that’s a pastime that will never completely leave me and is probably essential to my psyche.

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I wondered about things and thought about them without knowing that they already existed, or that there were names to my ideas. In my early elementary school years, I unwittingly philosophized over free will and the deterministic theory – and found out there was a name to it in high school. What if my whole life is a story that has already been mapped out? What if every choice has already been taken into account? If I suddenly choose to do something right now that I normally wouldn’t do, could I outwit this script? But no…they would have known about it beforehand anyhow. I don’t think there’s a way I can win this. God knows me better than I know myself. Does that mean I don’t have to work hard and things will work out? I still think I need to put in the effort. I guess I get to choose my life, but it’s all kind of a trap. A trap…

Would it be too much for me to boast that I invented the city of Venice before I heard that there was such a place? I emerged from one of my reveries with an idea that I thought could change the world. I definitely thought it was important enough. Mom, mom! I have a fantastic idea. What if we replaced all of our roads with water, and all our cars with boats? We could park our boat-cars in our little boat-garages after driving them up our boat-driveways, and in the morning I would get onto the boat-bus and go to school. It would be better for the environment too, because we wouldn’t have to use cars, or make roads. And we could see fish every day and the ecosystem could be healthy! Before I could finish, my mom told me, Gloria, actually, there’s a place like that already in Italy…

Sometimes nowadays I still catch myself wondering what I could have invented if only it hadn’t been created before I existed. Bach’s Minuet in G seems to me such an obvious tune that I would have known it had it not been written (but then again, probably not). But here’s a thought pleasant enough to entertain: Search deep enough inside yourself, and you can find the source of everything created so far and everything that will be created. In fact, I am almost certain that each one of us has the capacity to create anything that has been created as if for the first time. It’s only that some of us have been trained or brought up so that we have the better tools to excavate these inner treasures. What is art, what is discovery, if it is not an inner search for the truths that we already know?

That’s why when we come to a special passage of prose or music, we have an aha! moment – we recognize ourselves in that instant, and we connect with the art. We were born with the knowledge of ourselves, but in our lives it is up to us to discover it. Often, I wonder, why couldn’t I have written that, because indeed, I could have. Now it’s up to me, it’s up to all of us, to record whatever it is that logically comes next, the next obvious thing that we all resonate with.

“There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”

T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

And don’t understimate children! Don’t suppress where their tendrils of imagination reach. My city of canals and my theory already existed and validated the substantiality of my ideas, but if I were to come up with one birthed only by myself, I should pursue it to the ends of its potential. There’s little fear of ever running out of thoughts to think, but there is a fear of running out of time. I have less time than before to daydream now, but perhaps it is a time better than before to return to my solitude?

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