Monday, December 21, 2009

How do you know you exist?

Both of my kids have had some interesting existential questions this past week! Let's start with 6-year-old Leo:

When cuddling for bed, Leo noticed a strange shadow on the ceiling.

me: Maybe it's a ghost.
Leo: No, it can't be a ghost. Ghosts are invisible, and they don't exist, and light goes through them so they don't cast a shadow.
me: Fair enough.

Again, Leo was telling me about things that exist and don't exist...
me: Do you exist?
Leo: Of course!
me: How do you know you exist?
Leo: What?
me: How do you know you exist?
Leo: Look at me! I'm right here!
me: Fair enough.
Leo: But before you borned me, before I grew in your tummy, I didn't exist.

Then came 8-year-old-Nico's turn:

As soon as my husband discovered that David Attenborough had a new documentary out (Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life), he immediately ordered it. Nico asked who Charles Darwin was, and my husband suggested we watch the movie and find out!

The next morning, Nico wanted to watch the documentary again. During the intro, I repeated "Charles Darwin" (mimicking the English accent), and then Nico did me one better by dramatically saying "Charles Darwin -- the guy who proved that God doesn't exist."

That had me laughing -- the documentary certainly doesn't say that! However, you can kind of see how he might get that out of it. David Attenborough reads part of the creation story from Genesis and explains that for thousands of years most of Europe thought it was an accurate description of how animals came to be. Little by little, the evidence started to pile up (geology, transitional forms, genetics, plate tectonics) showing that the Genesis account is quite wrong. You can't really tell Darwin's story completely without mentioning the reaction by defenders of the faith, but the documentary leaves the conclusion open with respect to the existence of God.

You may recall way back here that we don't really talk about God much with our kids. Since that post, Nico has started to form his own ideas about what God is from different movies. He's an interesting character in Monty Python's "Holy Grail" -- plus Nico has learned that the planets are named after different "gods," but we haven't really discussed it.

Then, in one of the hotels on our road trip to Minnesota (we just arrived today), Nico found The Holy Bible! He was so amazed -- it's the same book that David Attenborough was reading! What a rare find!
me: Actually, Nico, it's not rare at all. They're everywhere. It's the best selling book of the year, every year.
Nico: Why?
me: They're for people who believe in God.

That shocked Nico quite a bit, and he was further shocked when we explained to him that his grandparents -- who we were on our way to visit -- believe in God. Nico immediately insisted that he had to tell them that God doesn't exist! (Yikes! That's just we need for our family Christmas visit...)

So we explained to Nico that it is very important not to tell the other other family members that God doesn't exist because if they want to believe in God, they can just go right ahead and believe in God. And if they want to believe that Christmas is God's birthday (even though it isn't) they can go right ahead and believe that as well. Fortunately Nico agreed that we'd just let them believe what they want.

The whole family is together for Christmas for the first time in nearly a decade -- I expect it will be a lot of fun! Wish me luck, though.

16 comments:

the chaplain said...

Your kids are a hoot. Total heathens (you're raising them well), but still a hoot.

Louise said...

If he brings it up with your parents you must call me IMMEDIATELY and I will come over. I would LOVE to witness that discussion!! :-) Looking forward to seeing you soon!

Leah said...

Your kids sound very precocious. My 5-year-old asked me a few months ago, "Mom, where was Baby Brother before he was in your tummy?"

He hasn't shown much interest in god(s) yet. I'm not sure what kind of ideas he has, if any. We'll be spending Christmas with some semi-religious relatives. We'll see how that goes.

Curious, what part of Minnesota? I live in Fargo.

King Aardvark said...

CL, how dare you stiffle little Nico's freedom of non-religious expression on your trip to the grandfolk's! The proper thing to do would be to set up a camera and post the video on Youtube for us to see ;)

Sabayon said...

Have I told you lately how much I love that your kids want to watch documentaries about evolution over and over?
Also I agree with the Aardvark.

WarOfArt said...

I hope I'm as good a parent as you. Sounds like an amzing family

Chris said...

Love the stories! Good luck!

Urban Koda said...

I second King Aardvark's suggestion!

My son's been watching PBS, and explained the evolution of man from a lower life form to me a few weeks back. I'm still undecided whether or not to talk with him about how this relates to his weekly attendance in Primary...

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks everyone!!!

True, it would be fun to post that to YouTube... But I'd have to have a camera handy at all times (because you never know when it will happen), and then somehow pull it out without ruining the unfolding scene...

Hey Leah!!!

I'm in the suburbs of Minneapolis. That's cool that that you're in North Dakota -- we're practically neighbors. You're just slightly closer to my parents' house than you would be to our apartment in Zurich if you lived in Paris. Of course the trip from Paris to Zurich is a little faster by train than the trip from Fargo to Minneapolis. It would be fun to get together, but we're flying back to Switzerland soon...

Cute story, by the way! It reminds me that there was one more line to one of my anecdotes with Leo, above. (I was racking my brain to try to remember everything when I arrived after that long drive, and apparently I didn't quite succeed.) I think I'll go back and edit the post, if nobody minds. ;^)

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Urban Koda!!!

I'd recommend you let him make the connection on his own. It's better that way -- it'll make him spend time thinking about it. Just be on hand to answer any questions.

Rebecca said...

I love that ghosts don't exist, but they are also invisible and light passes through them. That cracked me up.

You're going back to Switzerland soon? I was hoping you'd be in NJ a little longer since I'm moving to NYC in January!

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Rebecca!!!

Yeah, I thought that was cute when he said it. I'm guessing that what he meant was "Ghosts don't exits, but even if they did, they wouldn't cast a shadow." But, really, who knows?

Unfortunately, I'm not going back to NJ. We drove the car back so that my family could take care of selling it, and we're flying back to Switzerland from here.

Jeffrey said...

When your children are a bit older, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute offers DVDs of their Winter Lectures free. Evolution, proteins, RNA, Molecular clocks, etc

www.hhmi.org/catalog

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Jeffrey!!!

Thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to hear Nico's lectures on Darwin, complete with Sir Attenborough's accent. :-)

- wry

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Wry!!!

I'm sure he'll be more than happy to oblige! :D