Tag Archives: science

“Baby Food”

I recently found, in the Jan. 19, 2009 issue of The New Yorker, an article entitled, “Baby Food” written by Jill Lepore. I got to this quote and it just about made me cry:

“When the babe, soon after it is born into this cold world, is applied to its mother’s bosom; its sense of perceiving warmth is first agreeably affected; next its sense of smell is delighted with the odour of her milk; then its taste is gratified by the flavour of it; afterwards the appetites of hunger and of thirst afford pleasure by the possession of their objects, and by the subsequent digestion of the aliment; and, lastly, the sense of touch is delighted by the softness and smoothness of the milky fountain, the source of such variety and happiness.”

No offense, I swear I’m not a genderist, but I can’t believe it was written by a man; in 1794, Erasmus Darwin (Charles’ grandpappy) included this passage in his “Zoonomia; or The Laws of Organic Life.” I feel like it so beautifully expresses the whole, multi-layered experience. I realize it is written from the perspective of the child, and I wasn’t ever breastfed, and most of us wouldn’t remember it if we were, but it reflects so well the feeling of total satisfaction and well-being that pervades every aspect of existence when a child nurses.

I really don’t understand bottle feeding.

And the gist of the article is how many women now decide to bottle feed their breast milk. Yes, I know: work, partying, vacation sans enfants. But I’ve had to use a pump (my first baby was premature) and lemme tell ya, it ain’t fun. It is the worst of both worlds.

Whereas, in my opinion, breastfeeding, you know, out of the breast, is the best and easiest.

Anyway, if you have the slightest interest in breastfeeding or children, check out the whole article.


Filed under kids, society

Vaccine hysteria

I’ve been following the controversy over immunizations for many years, and the only thing I have become 100% convinced of is, if you want to find people who are passionately, violently, even rabidly on one side of a fence or the other, start talking about vaccines.

Of all the issues which it seems we should be calm and rational about, but aren’t, this takes the gold medal.  And news sites like CNN like to feed the frenzy with regular articles such as the one they posted a few days ago: measles outbreak may be linked to vaccine fears.

Perhaps because it deals with children’s safety, people tend to get their panties not only in a bunch but hooked up over their ears when they start to talk about this.  You’ve got the people who’ve only ever listened to the fearmongering of the medical establishment that says: if you don’t inject this poisonous material directly into your child’s bloodstream, starting with a newborn hepatitis shot that will protect the kid should he or she ever choose to become a slutty drug user, and followed by however many shots we will eventually develop for things ranging from polio to illnesses as mild as the chicken pox, then the poor creature will surely contract a plague that will eat them alive.  That’ll be $100, please.

Then you’ve got the other side who, by necessity, must match the passionate rhetoric with their own intensity just to be heard.  And you know, they are driven by fear too.  Fear of brain damage, autism, even death.  

Both sides point fingers and accuse the other of their irresponsibility in not accepting the other’s position.  It reminds me of some religious arguments I’ve heard: the one side says, my religion insists that you must accept my religion or you are doomed, and the other side says, I don’t accept your religion so leave me alone!

But this is science, you might correctly point out, not religion.  Except that there are actual scientific studies which appear to support both sides of the argument.  So it seems to come down to, which studies do you “believe” are valid enough to base a possibly life-changing decision on.

And once you’ve decided which studies are valid, roll them up and beat the opposition with them ’til they’re a bloody pulp.

I wonder if we will ever come to a point where we can figure this thing out like grown-ups and not like tiny kids running from ghosts.

Our kids deserve better.


Filed under science

Living Light

My seven-month-old son crawls through the dining room, encounters a strip of sunlight playing through the trees onto the floor and tries to pick it up.

Suddenly light is alive again.

Every morning I do not register daylight, only that I have to arise, have to get started on a to-do list, and where in heaven’s name is the coffee?

But as his tiny fingers grasp in vain for the flashing yellow “object,” I remember. There is a flaming star that seems to revolve around our terrestrial universe. That is, until the scientific-minded amongst us correct our illusions and we realize that we are just a tiny speck being hurled in a mathematical path across what may be an infinity of other specks.

And for every question science answers, many others arise. Okay, so we have our trajectory plotted, thanks to a careful examination of the various sources and reflections of light coming towards us. But what the heck is light? Wave or particle? The mysteries appear to have no end.

It all begins with, why can’t we pick this thing up off the floor?

Sometimes it’s good to start over at the beginning. Babies are brilliant at inspiring such activity. Beginners mind, as Zen practitioners will inform us, is good for letting go of everything we think we know, of getting back to our senses, which are really the only tools we have to investigate with. These subjective windows called sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell, are the only method of acquiring “objective” data.

And a lot of the time it gets us where we want to be. However mysterious light is, we’ve figured out how to harness its power with photovoltaic cells. We’ve accepted its regular movement to the point that most of us no longer practice any rituals to ensure that the sun will return after night, after winter. Our scientific progress has innocuated us against any magical properties that might be present in the light.

We never think of how completely dependent we are on its steadfast output, our intimate gravitational bond, how everything we eat is ultimately founded upon photosynthesis. Every once in a while we see an amazing sunset that gives us pause, but even within that experience we are often mired in our baggage: previous sunsets, remembering a lost love, thinking of how much pollution contributes to the colors, melancholy at the closing of a day. How seldom do we just drink in the colors, allow the brightness to take over our eyes and our awareness.

How seldom do we reach for the light, like a baby, trying all over again to touch magic.

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Filed under science