By JIM “PAPPY” MOORE
When my son was a little guy, probably four years old, he suddenly acquired the knowledge that he had bones inside his body. He had never given it any thought until I explained to him that his body was supported by bones.
This grain of new knowledge captivated him for a short period of time, and occupied his mind in an unusual way. He would fret about whether he might hurt his bones if he did something he had done many times. “Will it hurt my bones?!” he would inquire.
Watching a child’s mind evolve like that is part of the true joy of raising children. You get to watch them form the ability to assess new information, as their minds can handle new information. Sometimes, like the “bones” information my son got, that immediately causes the emerging mind to tackle a new concept.
Where before he would merely think that his arm hurt if he fell on it, now he would think “ow, my bones hurt!” when he fell on his arm. Somehow, knowing that there was such a thing as bones, that they were inside him, and that they could be injured or broken, made him react in a protective manner.
I think this was a very natural consequence of knowledge that carries with it an appreciation of danger. Humans have to learn quickly when situations threaten their well-being. “Once bitten, twice shy” is an old saw for a good reason. Fear is our protector, even when it has become somewhat irrational or obsessive.
Often in life we progress in our development and gain new information that causes us to experience fears, both real and imaginary, which we would not have without new knowledge and appreciation of those threats. We learn to be wary, and as we do, we lose all semblance of our childhood or youthful innocence.
It’s easy to let fears overtake our more rational thought processes, but that does not make our urges any less real. We are animals, and when any sign of trouble shows, most animals are down the hole, up the tree, or on the wing. They flee first, and assess threat level later, from a safe distance.
But we can think in ways most animals can’t. It is our blessing and our curse. Animals worry only about this moment. They’re always thinking about today, right now, this moment. We can contemplate. We can envision threats, and from that we can create fears, real or imaginary, which haunt us.
The story of my son and his “bones” is illustrative of how fears can spring full grown from new information, but such processes are normal for us. It’s easier to recognize it in a four-year-old, but it happens to each us, throughout our lives.
Copyright 2007, Jim “Pappy” Moore. All rights reserved.