The little life that is growing inside of me is getting more pronounced every day. Yesterday we had the 20-week scan, which I was really looking forward to. Everything looked good, so we are very happy. The phase of collecting baby items seems to start now; people around us are offering us all kinds of items, which is great. It also includes advice in the form of books. I now know everything about the development of babies (and the frustrations of mothers) from a Dutch book called “Oops, I’m growing!”. One passage from the book is interesting enough to share here: (My translation)
He [the baby up to 5 weeks old] cannot yet distinguish between what his senses tell him about his environment and what they tell him about his body. For him, the outside world and his body are one. What happens outside, happens in his body. And what his body feels, everything and everyone feels. The world is bored. The world is hungry, warm, wet, tired or tasty.
I admit, I don’t know much about babies yet, but I wasn’t expecting Buddhist wisdom from these small bundles of life. Knowing and feeling that you are one with everything that exists, is the highest you can achieve in many Eastern religions. As Thich Nhat Hanh says: “We cannot just be by ourselves alone. We have to inter-be with every other thing.”
Heart outside of our body
An unborn baby is not an independent being. If the heart of the mother stops beating, the baby’s life is also over. Thich Nhat Hanh mentions the sun as an example of a ‘heart outside of our body’: we are just as dependent on it as the baby depends on me at the moment.
I have always found this a beautiful concept. Over the summer, I read the biography of Alexander von Humboldt (just to indicate that I also read books that are not about babies). He was the first Western scientist to view nature as a complex web of life, an organism in which everything is connected. With the human race as a component that does not know its place anymore. Humboldt strongly criticized the Spanish colonial government, which exploited and destroyed both the population and the natural environment in South America, two things that always go together. Two hundred years later, it is almost as if this colonial virus has only increased in strength.
We are more than we think we are
Joanna Macy says it like this:
The crisis that threatens our planet, whether seen in its military, ecological, or social aspects, derives from a dysfunctional and pathological notion of the self. It derives from a mistake about our place in the order of things. It is the delusion that the self is so separate and fragile that we must delineate and defend its boundaries; that it is so small and so needy that we must endlessly acquire and endlessly consume; and that as individuals, corporations, nation-states, or a species, we can be immune to what we do to other beings.
The medicine against our greed, which is turning the oceans into wastebelts, and condemns millions of animals to a miserable life on factory farms, is simple: look around you! We are part of a magnificent whole, and by treating the world with care, we take care of ourselves.
So did we already achieve our ultimate self-realization as a baby, and is everything that follows (lifting your head, walking, school, writing blogs) a miserable deterioration of this perfect state of being? You would almost think so. Yet I am glad that I have made all these steps, so that I can now read books and enjoy for example this beautiful poem by Tagore:
The same stream of life that runs
through my veins night and day runs
through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.
It is the same life that shoots in joy
through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and
breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.
It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-creadle
of birth and of death, in ebb and in flow.
I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world
of life. And my pride is from the life-throb of ages
dancing in my blood this moment.
Rabindranath Tagore (1861 — 1941)
- Hetty van de Rijt en Frans X. Plooij, Oei, ik groei!
- Thich Nath Hanh, Peace is every step
- Andrea Wulf, The invention of Nature: The adventures of Alexander von Humboldt
- Joanna Macy, essay in Spiritual Ecology — the Cry of the Earth