Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/368

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354 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

" Oh., you were not here at all." She seemed quite amazed at this,

and said : " And what did you do without H ? Did you cry

all day for her ? " And being informed that this was not the case, she seemed quite unable to realize how her mother could have existed without her. There is something of the charmingly naive egoism of the child here, but there is more, there is the vague ex- pression of the unifying integrating work of love. Lovers, one is told, are wont to think in the same way about the past before they met and became all in all to one another. For this little girl, with her strong sense of human attachment, the idea of a real life without that which gave it warmth and gladness was a contradiction.

Sometimes, again, in the more metaphysical sort of child-head, the puzzle relates to the existence of the outer world of things. We have all been perplexed by the thought of the world's exist- ing before we were, and going on to exist after we cease to be ; though here, again, save in the case of the philosopher, perhaps, we get used to the puzzle. Children may be deeply impressed with this apparent contradiction. Jean Ingelow, in her interest- ing reminiscences, thus writes of her puzzlings on this head : " I went through a world of cogitation as to whether it was really true that anything had been and lived before I was there to see it. ... I could think there might have been some day when I was very little as small as the most tiny pebble on the road but not to have been at all was so very hard to believe." A little boy of five, who was rather given to saying smart things and what looked like a display of his powers, was one day asked by a vis- itor, who thought to rebuke what she took to be his conceit,

" Why, M , however did the world go round before you came

into it ? " M at once replied : " Why, it didn't go round. It

only bqgan five years ago." Was this, as perhaps nine persons out of ten would say, merely a bit of dialectic smartness, the evasion of an awkward question by denying the assumed fact ? I am disposed to think that there was more, that the virtuous inten- tion of the visitor had chanced to discover a hidden child-thought, for the child is naturally a Berkeleyan, in so far at least that for him the reality of things is reality for his own sense-perceptions. A world existent before he was on the spot to see it seems to the

child's intelligence a contradiction. M 's expression, " It only

began five years ago," was merely a particularly audacious way of putting an idea which lurks, I suspect, in the dim region of many little minds that try to think about things.

Children will sometimes use theological ideas as an escape from this puzzle. The myth of babies being brought down from heaven is particularly helpful. The quick young intelligence sees in this pretty idea a way of prolonging his existence back-

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