INSPIRATION: The astounding climb (pt.1): A meditation on development

A very old and dear friend had a healthy, bouncing baby boy, now two weeks old. I had the great honor of being with him and his wife a few hours after the birth, when, despite the various upheavals of his arrival at the hospital, a deep stillness underlay all the family visitations and the coming-and-going of medical personnel.

That stillness has not quite continued; the new parents are on a growth curve of learning to interpret "waahhaaahhaa!" and how to deal with sleep in two hour chunks. It all seems to be progressing fairly typically, with what appear to be standard amounts of happiness and pain.

Never having spent so much time around a newborn, what it has unexpectedly surfaced is a deeper appreciation--not of the particular struggles of individuals, which I already have a deep empathy for, but of the "impersonal" struggles of human beings. Looking at this little being, with his animatronic-like movements, his inability to focus, his language of a half-dozen nuanced cries, his out of control body functions--it gets me reflecting on what a climb it is for life qua life.

Think about Mars. Maybe there were some microbes in the distant past, or maybe even now, buried under a vast plain of dust and rock. But there are no grasses, no trees, no insects, no mice. It's like a sterilized Mojave, with texture. Here in my own neighborhood, there must be 50 different trees, and hundreds of different species of other plants and critters. Yet this planet was a barren as Mars at one point, and all of the incredible diversity has arisen from a browner colored rock-and-dust.

What a climb. What intense dramas have played out just to create a mammalian body that could support cognition of a rudimentary sort. That could allow the base for the emergent psychological world, and its dramas. All this, all the inconceivably vast play of energy and form over ungraspable spans of time, has localized in the form of my friend's newborn, in his raucously "bodied" phase.

Holding him, and knowing something about human pains and struggles, it's quite moving to imagine the vast effort that has formed him, and the efforts that will be called from him to even develop the basics, of language, movement, relationship. And then the personal struggles on top of that, finding meaning, purpose, love. Falling on your face and trying to make sense and use of it.

With this nascent being, this arc of effort is particularly poignant, and is easily forgotten or missed when looking at an adult, with all the clouds of language and personality. But my ability to type on this keyboard has a few billion years history, at least. Pretty astounding when you think about it.