Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hyperdubious Disorder

My younger daughter has an interesting habit of needing to verify ideas with different people and in different situations. 

For instance, she investigated whether the prohibition on nudity in kindergarten also extends to her best friend's house (yes) and to her mother's artwork (confusingly, no.)

When she was about 5, she asked me out of the blue, "where is God?"  I explained that God is mysteriously everywhere.  I told my husband about our conversation later and he said, "Good, I told her the same thing when she asked me yesterday."  She often asks my husband and me the same question at different times, as if to check that our stories line up.

In her case, I think her sudden adoption from an orphanage to our family at the age of sixteen months left her feeling that the world is a random and arbitrary place, and she's always trying to figure out what truths are universal.

I wasn't adopted, but I had a similar approach as a child.  In my case, I lived inside my own head a lot, and I thought that the rest of the world did the same.  I assumed that most things were fictions that others had dreamed up.

For instance, I was astonished, when, on a trip to Washington, D.C., I discovered that the White House was an actual building, and that it looked just like those backdrops I had seen behind the anchor on the evening news.  I had supposed that it was just a symbol.  

Later, I had a social studies teacher who was always gassing on about the caste system in India.  Naturally, I figured that he had just made the whole thing up.  I was astonished to discover later that the caste system was real.

In general, it never occurred to me that the things teachers said at school had any utility, or even any parallel, outside. 

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