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being in time as a conceptually free-associative story
October 3 / October 16, 2010

Oct. 16: This page can never be satisfactorily done, I feel; so, I’m just going to let it stay what it is tonight (very revised from Oct. 3) as a record of a state of mind, October, 2010, which sketches a conceptual plight of thinking freely about ontogeny briefly. The value of this idiosyncratic page will be relative to later work, as sketches are.


The commonsense wisdom that the child is parent to the adult is so variably true and false that it just reminds me of some nebulous continuity that is somehow constitutive (as if the child does parent the adult by instilling some developmental fatefulness) and is not constitutive: Just as plausibily, the child does not parent the adult because we easily look back on our development as outgrown, as not having anticipated how our life is going. So, a life, capable of retrospection, has constitutivity: a childhood is somehow contained by adult understanding. That is, the adult appreciates its childhood as integral part of oneself, not wholly determinative: as s/he who appropriated Givenness (a developmental continuum) in an unanticipated, individuating way.

A parent’s archive of photos and vignettes, hauled out for their adult child’s embarrassment, would pretend to render some essential continuity which, merged with the adult child’s own remembrance, might create a nearly-causal sense of growing up. For a narration of it all, available things, texts, others’ memories, and casual remembrance gravitate into one’s capability for cohering it all through pensive dwelling in a mix of imaginative remembrance and motivation to draw everything into a coherent sense of lived time (a feeling of temporal coherence, sometimes called a historicity), which narration never wholly captures, rather simulating a real coherence only known as lived. Such historiography or historicality of a life—bio-graphy: drawing life; or auto-bio: of the life itself—is to the living one’s ongoing futurity lived as still living, beyond capture, an ongoing futurity that neither the child could conceive, nor the parents validly anticipate, nor the writer capture.

The parents get more credit for their pretense of knowing the continuum for the child the more that the child was really theirs: conforming to their expectations, a conventional child, providing a potential sense of clearly representable life, because the life kept itself secured in common sense and expectations: sociocentric and not very imaginative.

Of course, my bias is for a postconventional adult (born of a postconventional childhood). We easily understand ourselves as not essentially constituted by our childhood (or fully in light of parents’ designs).

That I have constitution can be considered through retrospection, and theory is very good for cohering that. But the having frames a subject (reflecting retrospectively) which can’t explain the individuated subjectivity framing (i.e., an anticipated immanence of reflector grasping its own reflectivity), except inasmuch as a narrative of growing up or plausible theory of constitution weaves into self reflection’s (my) capability for conceptual weaving (i.e., reflectivity gains capability for highly self-conceiving).

It can make one a bit dizzy.


It’s easier to not try to think of the entire continuum of development altogether. It’s easilier to entertain merely how adolescence makes one into an adult, somehow “constituting” adulthood. One likely imagines a good sense of “horizon” if I say that the teen unwittingly shapes the horizon of its adulthood by forming persistent aspirations, values, worldview, etc. that become presumptions about future good sense or how the life is to go.

Yet, there are so many kinds of lives, and not all the kinds are immanent to a particular adolescence. There is inestimable variability in the odysseys youth makes into its Time, often including generational aspirations, etc., that are socially unprecedented, but malleable, in any case: fated to be transmuted by future happenstance, at best “fated” by an expansive openness of Self that rides its fine presumptions into that landscape of happenstance which, in a sense, one becomes: a chameleon among modes of living, eras of the life, loves, careers, locales, etc., thanks to such openness. I think that growing into adulthood with primordial openness is a very good “Thing.” Anyway, we so variably write our promise in youth, such that the horizon is to be ours (or not).

What kind of childhood best holds promise of primordial openness in young adulthood? I don’t have a simple answer. But understanding how childhood parents the teen is easier than understanding how the teen parents the adult—though pubescence is every parent’s wake-up call that their child had been, for a relatively long time, gaining a parentally-unanticipated mind of its own.

I’ve had a pet theory (evidently, I recently discover, backed up by research) that the way a child weathers the so-called “terrible twos” will echo in how pubescence goes, because the early passage through primary individuation/separation (which is not captured by Freudian models) creates the developmental paradigm of stage transition for later selfidentity-formative brain-growth spurts. The hormonal storm of pubescence unwittingly mines its embodied sense of First Gaining Itself, my pet theory goes.

That is one stark example of how the child parents the teen—or how the pubescent child echoes the mirrorplay of parenting and self-assertion that made the preschool child. Other, less dramatic, examples of how the child parents the teen include the child’s growth into a complementary proportion of introversion and extraversion; or growth of dispositions (balance, imbalance) toward thinking vs. feeling—and other handy dyads of Myers-Briggs modeling that emerge from childhood to pose adolescence in more-or-less fateful ways. The simple point is that there are lots of conceptual models for understanding how youth was mapped by childhood dispositions.

Also, obviously, there’s the clear dependence of prospects for middle school success on earlier school engagement: degree of self motivation in learning, degree of age-standard cognitive skills (age-above vs. age-below for different modes of learning and understanding). In terms of standard models of school-age development, constitutivity of the teen relative to the ongoing child is relatively easy to represent (easier, relative to modeling a teen-to-adult transition)—though remembering one’s own adolescence in relation to one’s own childhood is probably a nebulous venture—easy only for an ideal observer. (Imagine the aggregate mind of all one’s teachers gathered in a room with one’s parents, hosted by a developmental psychologist, all talking for weeks.) In fact (as parents often exclaim), we seem retrospectively to have grown up before anyone gains any clear conception of what happened (as we all tend to live in a near-sightedness of dailiness: the trees that have no place to stand in consideration of itself as forest). “She was a a potbellied darling only yesterday, and today she’s breathtaking—and a pain in the neck.” She emerges, as if ex nihilo from her own nature, it may seem.

Through their child, a parent gets back some degree of their own feeling for every era of their own childhood and adolescence (which should not be a matter of trying to have a better second childhood through one’s child, i.e., growing up again but better, through one’s child, which is an awful burden for a child: feeling made to live for the parent).

Anyway, parenting and family give us a feeling for developmental time, as always belonging to us, mirrored in the child, with the child, and mirrored alone, in solitude with the complex of all one’s years, making childhood a possibly-profound mystery of nascency, inasmuch as we appreciate of ourselves what a mystery we were. We are a mystery of ongoing life, always better appreciated as mystery years later (as one’s Present often seems so obvious in its Meaning), later recalled as having been so much more mystery than could be absorbed or appreciated.

The older one becomes, the more there can be a resonance of ontogenic time in feelings of-and-for what happens. Temporal ambiance, being attuned to oneSelf, the horizoning child, belongs to a figurative mind, a literary mind, more than to a clinical or empirical mind. We live our constitution as ongoing, living, an ongoing constituting. (And we may think about it all in very different ways: clinical, literary, conceptual...)

For any particular life, the relations of future and past may vary, one prevailing over the other (futurity vs constitution) variably through eras of one’s life; or perhaps there’s little flexibility in the relations across eras. On the one hand, in what sense—to what degree—is one’s futurity drawn in presently ownmost, unanticipated ways? On the other hand, to what degree is one’s futurity mirroring a destining of experience, valuing, idealization, etc.? To what degree is lived time primarily in its own ongoing genesis vs. being lived time unwittingly implementing an unwittingly Given design?


A parent might readily understand how the toddler “constitutes” the preschooler. Yet, over the months, the constitutivity increasingly eludes understanding, as one’s child plays the world around it (her, him). But all the preschool dispositionality, e.g., love of exploring (or not), embraces the schoolage child because it belongs to our nature to want to trust and explore. If an unmotivated preschool child (the dismissive child, the devaluing child, the egoistic child) is Awakened by the schoolage years, it’s an awakening to one’s natural potential to love novelty, challenge, and mystery—in strange others, as well as in one’s things—which belongs to us from infancy.

How childhood holds within itself the destining of the teen is so much more diffuse than how the preschooler holds within itself the destining of the schoolage child; but no doubt, somehow, destining mixes with discovery and imagination; and with self-designing time to make a preschooler contain a childhood containing an adolesence, ever diffusely echoing background dispositions and presumptions in feeling for what happens going forward, as a potential in something or the background significance ahead.

Writing that way simulates a reality of experience: Not only is experience phenomenological (with surface meaning and aura of implicature), but time gains meaning ontogenically. The future is deeply anticipatory. Is it presumed (made) or always constructing itself? The past is something reconstructed, yet immanent in the significance of presents. Both futurity and remembrance may be either written (constructed) or read (regarded as Given)—though each in a life is always a mix of both (I would argue). Indeed, any presence is temporally resonant.


I wonder how much of infantile feeling I find again in extended solitude. I was the first child of a happy couple; and reportedly a joy on long car trips because I liked daydreaming out the window. I soothed myself easily. I wander how far easy enchantment now is feeling again the very early happiness—how much I bring some capacity for making it to horizons that are new.


We make up stories about what a baby is doing, and one may believe that the baby’s not yet catching on, because s/he can’t yet talk. But you know your own baby: It’s thrilled by far more than one might anticipate of it, like preferring its mother’s voice already at birth, the mind having been in formation for months before the relatively-trivial passage called birth. The pure joy of neonatal being is, I imagine, like some adult finding a wondrous Belonging to the heavens.

Anyway, birth is a relative thing, incomprehensibly “defined” in its bogglingly fast Emergence of brain complexity. Whole-bodied, whole-minded formation of Self realization in feeling, perception, engagement—initiating a long road of Self actualization—begins in emergence of a sentience (4-6 months?) having no clearly discernible boundary (which makes inquiry into innateness essentially theory-laden)—apart from the ontogenically-trivial drama of leaving the womb that properly means more to the parent than to the darling other: the mystery who’s been listening for quite awhile before the passage, waiting increasingly actively for its time.

A psychologist brings concepts of ontogenesis to the playspace. A philosopher of mind commonly asks: What are “mental” events composing our flows of solitude? The appropriate kind of answer is not a state description but a satisfactory (ever?) sense of the ontogeny of mental representing—experienced as the there “of” what’s there, born of thereing (thering?), at first unable to conceive the difference between act and result of an act. In the beginning, the diffuseness of everything is all thering itself, as if a voice of the horizon creates the horizon and everything personifies itself.

In the beginning, It is all Self, rapidly gaining senses of difference (what’s very novel vs. less so, etc.), a growing perceptibility fated to discover that moving can be “mine.” I is the moving eventually conceived distinctly As me.