The baby discovers himself in the universe. He feels no fear,

    no anxiety (assuming he isn't hungry), and identifies his

    being with all that he sees. As yet the perception of identity,

    precursor of the verb "be", is a matrix of features whose symbols

    are indistinct, but the import of the matrix itself is that sense

    of identity, of sensual and perceptual one-ness with the universe. 

    The baby is, as it were, the universe looking in on itself.

    When the baby experiences hunger the identity with the pleasant

    and amorphous universe is broken. A crack appears in the

    continuity between baby and world, between his face which he can

    not see and the out-there of his nursery. His cry startles him.

    The world blurs. It is a swelling tear. The tear is a prism,

    and the universe melts in color. His cry shakes the tear,

    the universe quivers, and a soft mass, his fist, wipes
it off.

    The universe reappears, seemingly farther away, unrelenting,


    The baby has made his second discovery: the negative.

    BE and BE NOT.

    Perhaps, for a moment, he gasps, sucks in his cry, his tears

    vaporize in
the hot wonder of the revelation: the brutal duality

    BE/BE NOT (or IS/IS NOT)

    stultifies his hunger. For a moment. The sound of his cry,

    by the difference from his pleasant babbling, gives significance,

    a fiercer reality, to both.

    The soothing quality of his tranquil voice entertains him.

    He imitates the strange beings who constantly hover over him,

    touch him, feed him, always smiling. He smiles too.

    Now the sounds he makes are with a smile, his lips spread wide,

    and closing, opening:

        ". . pa . . .ba . . . ma . . .wa . ."

    The world has beguiled him to utter the sounds, rising in his

    throat and tickling his lips, that will divide and coalesce

    into the pregnant symbols of his language.

    First it is names, symbols of things that he can see and touch

    and taste, that he learns. The creatures who feed him, the thing

    he eats, and himself. Simple words that begin the relentless

    isolation of his universe, taking the infinite, undifferentiated

    plenum of his nursery and wrapping parts of it, the parts that

    move or touch him or taste, with skins of sound.

    Later, he will hear the symbols side by side and somehow realize

    new meanings that are not in the symbols themselves but in the

    bundle of relations that flash between the symbols,

    like electricity flowing between dumb terminals possessed of no

    intrinsic power.

    Syntax stirs and stretches out of the tight bed of words.

       "Mama loves baby."

    "Loves" is first the soothing touch of the mother.

    Then he anticipates it. Her hands start movement, still in space,

    not yet on him, already he gleams, and "loves" takes a tilt

    into abstraction: now it begins away from him, redefines itself

    in the intangible motion that culminates on his joy.

    But always the word will have a curiously intimate meaning;

    beyond all the symbols he will learn in his life (paler and more

    sophisticated synonyms), it will stir him, like the sudden

    remembrance of a lost precocity.

       "Baby loves baby."


       "Baby loves sister."


       "Mama loves sister."

    And then baby sees Mama hit sister, both with unsmiling

, and he hears the continuous, sharp syntax of pain,

    the cry, the dizzy whimper.

    The universe takes a spin in opposite directions.

    When it stops, in a minute or two, Mama is smiling again,

    but the room, the walls, the air with the trembling motes

    of dust, Mama's face, have not meshed perfectly; there is

    a crack that seems to thread across everything.

    What was whole is now confused. The crack exposes the first

    two pieces of a giant puzzle that has come into being because

       "Mama loves sister."

    for an immovable moment, was not true.

    It did not apply to Mama's action, which contradicted the terrible

    importance of the sentence. The sentence has caused the universe

    to shake, to spin, to crack all around, to begin in the morning

    with slightly crooked beams of light, to end in a tilted darkness.

    And "love", the touch, the sound, the word, gyrates in the baby's

    mind, wobbling through shades of meaning, each shade retouching

    the world, shedding patinas of disintegration on things once

    bright, firm, eternal.

    "Love" and the universe, both nameless at first, too immediate

    and ecstatic to be bothered with self-reflecting images, were One.

    "Love" wrapped

       "Mama loves sister."

    in a seamless circuit of elemental unity, with infinite symmetries

    and substitutions:

       "Sister loves Mama."

       "Baby loves sister."

       "Sister loves baby."

       "Baby loves Universe."

       "Universe loves baby."

    "Love", above focused in the word, binds together the symbols

    of an endless chain of possibilities, like a mirror set between

    two things that reflects both of them on a common surface,

    joining separate existences, creating the syntax that makes

    the juxtaposition possible.

    So the mother's blow, beyond the simple physical act, strikes,

    not on one, but on the endless conjunctions of sentences that

    wind through the universe. The blow strikes on the word that

    empowers the unity of the chain, on "love", and the cracking

    of the word flashes in the chain, the crack the baby sees opening

    through everything.

    "Love", split into parts, reflects into the universe the puzzle

    that it has become. And the universe, there in the nursery,

    in the grinning faces, in the equivocal action of the strangers,

    flickers out of its freshness, takes a twist into shades

    of meaning, becomes nostalgic, intense, philosophical.

    Baby lifts his hands in front of his eyes to wipe away the

    ambiguity blurring his vision.

    The little fingers play in the air, the soft knuckles beat

    against the suspended toy, which chimes and whirls.

    He blinks, rubs his eyes. The blur remains.

    It is inside him.

    Above him, mother whispers, "Mama loves baby."

    He squints at her.



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