You don’t need to be a professor in an ivory tower to do metaphysics. Not everyone, no matter how intelligent, ends up in academia, and not everyone there does metaphysics. People do metaphysics when they ponder the whys and wherefores of life—from whatever standpoint they find themselves in. I’ve met some serious metaphysicians who are taxi drivers, homemakers and electricians. What makes them serious is how carefully they pay attention to what’s going on around and in them. Here’s how I got started:
My mother was a nurse who loved to read, everything from fine poetry to the National Enquirer, from beauty tips and celebrity gossip to international news and political commentary. She loved human interest stories the most, and shared the best bits with her family. The one I found most intriguing has stuck with me all my life. It was about “boarder babies.”
There was a hospital with a maternity ward, according to this piece, where women sometimes gave birth and left their babies there unclaimed. Note, these newborns were perfectly healthy with no birth defects. They were cared for by nurses and aides who kept them clean, warm, and well nourished. But the hospital staff had many other duties, and that was all they were able to do. …What happened to those perfectly healthy little babes?
My students have been shocked, at least momentarily, to hear this. But occasionally a natural metaphysician among them pops up with the correct answer.
They died, that’s what. Not of disease, or malnutrition. They died for lack of attention.
Others ask snarkily, as some students tend to do, “You mean to tell us that babies who don’t get cuddled and cooed at give up and die, just like that?”
Think about it, I say. You’re new to life, in a crib in a maternity ward. Other babies’ mothers pick them up and hold them, family and friends ooh and ah and say how cute they are, and you are ignored except for the quick diaper changes, wipes, and bottles of formula. You sense that other beings like you are getting what you want more than anything, and you are missing out. If that’s all you knew of life, would you want to live? Incidentally, the hospital in question formed a group of volunteers to hold and talk to the boarder babies, until they could be placed in proper homes. After that they all survived.
Back to my real point: Attention is vital for life. Without it we die; with it we thrive. You would not be alive to read this if you had been denied sufficient attention as an infant.
As this website will explore, attention may be the invisible (a.k.a. dark) force of our world. And, as I have suggested elsewhere (See Publications Page), the lack of positive attention may be the initial source of what we feel to be evil. On the other hand, caring attention may prove to be the essential ingredient of all personal power and achievement.
If you think this subject is vast and worth exploring, welcome to the world of attending metaphysicians!
FYI – A recent Op Ed column in the New York Times by Nicholas D. Kristof seems to illustrate my point rather convincingly. It’s titled “Cuddle Your Kid!” and subtitled “What Romney and Obama can learn from rats and a teenage girl.” Here’s the link:http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/21/opinion/sunday/kristof-cuddle-your-kid.html?_r=0