Thursday, February 4, 2016

Windows to the Brain

There’s been little question for some time that Peter has a unique way of looking at the world. I won’t go as far as to say that he is brilliant, though I clearly think he is. I’m afraid many will think that I am biased. Maybe I am. Maybe I just don’t hang out with a lot of six year-olds (which is also true).

As we were walking back from sledding last week, Peter asked me how we breathe. He asked me what would happen if we forgot to breathe. I told him that we couldn’t forget to breathe, because breathing is an involuntary action, something your brain tells your body to do without you having to think about it. I thought a moment then corrected myself. Breathing could be both voluntary and involuntary, because you can hold your breath when you go underwater.

Peter asked me how we think. I tried to explain that our brain is made up of millions of cells called neurons that send electrical impulses to one another, and that these impulses carry thoughts. He asked me how we see, and I tried to explain that there were receptors in your eyes that transformed light and images into electrical signals for our brain to read. He then told me that his eyes are the windows to his brain. Yes, Peter. Yes, they are.

This morning, Peter flipped through a book on the universe that he had checked out of the library and asked me what super-novas and quasars were. I tried to explain that after a star died and collapsed in upon itself, it exploded, going ‘super-nova’, and that quasars were clouds of stars deep in space.

“Can spaceships fly though quasars?”


“Can they fly through stars?”

Me, “No.”

So why can’t spaceships fly through quasars when they can fly through stars? Crap, I don’t know. Any answer is predicated on the assumption that one believes ships fly through space, but I believe it is better to answer theoretical questions with theoretical answers, rather than tell him there’s no such things as spaceships. I believe his questions deserve answers. Let it be someone else’s job to tell him there’s no such thing as the tooth fairy, Easter Bunny, or space travel.

Pete—as you probably know by now—is our early riser. When we lived in India, he would get up at 5:00 every morning and draw Star Destroyers. The thing was: All his drawings were in perfect three-dimensional perspective. He can look at a picture in a Star Wars book, and reproduce it perfectly from memory many days or weeks later.

After we left India, Peter got into the bad habit of putting his fingers in his mouth. Come to find out, he had molars coming in, but it didn’t stop me from constantly reminding him not to put his fingers in his mouth. He replied, “My fingers are keeping my teeth company.” Which left me wondering where he comes up with this stuff.

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