Another one ’bout numbers. I had the entertaining pleasure of watching by little sister grow up from a minuscule and insignificant baby to a full grown adolescent. And of course, I saw her and talked to her while she learned to count.
Once I heard her as she set out to count from 1 to whatever she knew. The thing started well the first ten numbers. Until the fourteen she managed too. After fourteen, however, came ourteen. And later see-one, and after that ateeseven. And so on.
I couldn’t really say which were the numbers she invented that day, but they were all very interesting. Her behavior fascinated me. In the same way she had many a time tried to convince me that she knew how to read, only not aloud, and she kept staring at a written sheet of paper with a concentrated look on her face, now she was trying to pretend she knew all numbers that came after the fourteen.
It’s very common that children imitate behaviors they see in adults, like counting for instance. Though they don’t know exactly what’s the purpose of the actions, or the details and knowledge required to carry ’em out, they try to mimic the symptoms, the superficial part they can identify. And in reality we adults do the same, only one of the behaviors we already learned is to identify which behaviors are harder to fake in front of the people who handle them better than us.
And that’s the interesting part of it, innit? That we live every day in this society with human beings who ignore, for example, the sequence of natural numbers, and how unambiguous and unforgeable it is. And nonetheless we can talk with ’em and discuss with ’em and feel for them almost all emotions we can feel for the folks our age, and even more. They’re people who ignore how precise, how distinct the chain of natural numbers is for someone who already knows it. But they don’t have any way to find out ’cept by pretending they know it.
Neither they have any way to know if they can mimic crying. And later maybe they find out they do, they can make some adult believe they’re effectively crying. They don’t have any way to distinguish between crying and counting, which actions are unforgeable and which are more left open to interpretation. In the same way that we, until we try, don’t know if we can pretend we laugh when in fact we didn’t get the joke. Or pretend we walk inattentive on the street when in fact we’re thinking whether we look silly or not. Or pretend we know how to do some paperwork when in fact we’re reading the form in hope that it’ll shed some fucking light on the matter. Or pretend our life is interesting when in fact we’re asking ourselves how come all things always happen to everyone else.
So one of this days I’ll send it all to hell and see if I can count up to ateeseven all by myself.