Ktismatics

20 April 2007

Bicycle Traces

Filed under: Reflections — ktismatics @ 1:41 pm

As I was walking along the beach yesterday I came across a little girl sitting on her bicycle. All of a sudden she tipped over. The first thing she did when she hit the ground was to turn her head and look over to the side. I followed her gaze. There, sitting on a bench, was a woman who was probably the girl’s mother. She smiled at the girl. The girl smiled back, picked up her bicycle, and hopped back on. No words were spoken.

You can imagine other reactions. Probably the most typical one is the mom with a worried look on her face running up to the little girl to see if she’s alright. Or perhaps a quick lecture on how to keep from falling over again. Maybe scoffing at the kid for falling. Or the mom might not have been paying attention, and so she wouldn’t have met the little girl’s gaze.

I mentioned this event to Anne. She said she witnessed a nearly identical circumstance earlier in the day. A little boy riding his bike, training wheels still on, took a corner and fell off. His mom was with him. The kid got up, whimpering a little, and glanced at his mom. The mom, a stern look on her face, smacked him upside the head. The kid got up, righted his bike and climbed back on. No words were spoken.

A little while after seeing the girl fall off her bike I heard a kid crying. A little girl was holding her dad’s hand as they headed toward the beach. The dad, grim-looking, held a tricycle in his other hand. I wonder what their story was.

Advertisements

7 Comments »

  1. I mentioned this event to Anne. She said she witnessed a nearly identical circumstance earlier in the day….

    I’m going to suggest that it was the same mom, but that she has two different kids from two different men and takes a different approach to parenting the two different kids.

    Like

    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 20 April 2007 @ 6:35 pm

  2. Also in two different towns. This, by the way, is an illustration of “trace” from the Derrida Metaphysics of Presence post. The kids learn how to react by watching their parents, by gazing into their faces, maybe by feeling the blow from their hand. The first girl’s smile at a learning experience, the boy toughing it out through humiliation — these reactions may well persist and repeat themselves into the future as habits from behavioral traces laid down in the past. The kids might not remember the events, and there were no words spoken, but the territorialization remains etched in the synapses.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 20 April 2007 @ 8:47 pm

  3. Nice example of a difficult concept. Do you think Derrida meant that something needs to get imprinted in the brain’s circuits to be a trace? That makes the trace very close to ‘the subconscious’.

    Like

    Comment by samlcarr — 20 April 2007 @ 10:08 pm

  4. Derrida follows Freud in using the word “trace” as a permanent inscription that some events left behind on the brain. Freud uses the analogy of what in Germany is called the “mystic writing pad” — in America it’s called a “magic slate.” There’s a clear plastic layer, an opaque gray plastic layer under it, and a black waxy surface on the bottom. You write with a stylus on the clear layer, and it presses the gray layer onto the waxy surface such that it looks like a black line has been written on the slate. When you peel back the top two layers the gray surface gets unstuck from the waxy surface, erasing the marks, leaving you with a blank slate again. But if you look carefully, you observe that the stylus has left a light permanent impression — a trace — on the waxy surface. Freud regarded this as a good analogy for the mind: impressions continually pass across consciousness and are almost immediately erased, but some impressions leave a permanent “trace” on the brain that constitutes memory or behavior patterns. I think both conscious and unconscious memories result from a trace, but the unconscious ones are either too lightly etched or too painful to be readily retrieved into consciousness.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 21 April 2007 @ 1:29 pm

  5. A personal note: My sense as parent was that our kid would react to an unusual event pretty much the way we as parents did. So if we panicked, so did she; if we smiled and encouraged her, she smiled and tried again. This is the mirroring phenomenon, where the child learns how to act, how to be, based on watching the parent. The parent serves as a mirror, reflecting back to the child a response that she can appropriate as her own. She doesn’t know how to feel or act until she sees the parent feel and act. Within limits, of course.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 22 April 2007 @ 7:03 pm

  6. Two thoughts.

    First regarding, But if you look carefully, you observe that the stylus has left a light permanent impression — a trace — on the waxy surface. Freud regarded this as a good analogy for the mind: impressions continually pass across consciousness and are almost immediately erased, but some impressions leave a permanent “trace” on the brain that constitutes memory or behavior patterns.

    I’m thinking about that Magic Slate toy I had as a child and all of the traces I left on it…I wonder if they stuck in my brain as well? That could explain a lot…a whole lot. (Or should I say a “hole” lot?)

    Second, regarding The parent serves as a mirror, reflecting back to the child a response that she can appropriate as her own. She doesn’t know how to feel or act until she sees the parent feel and act. Within limits, of course.

    When our daughter was small, I worked hard to hide from her my fear of bees and other flying insects. I had been tortured as a child by bugs and didn’t want her to feel the same way. So, anytime we were outside and something buzzed by, I ignored it, with enormous willpower I might add. I don’t think she ever saw me react wildly even when they were close. Anyway, she wasn’t afraid of flying, buzzing bugs until she got a little older, say around 7. By then, I really had become more numbed to them (systematic desensitization?) and suddenly she started running and screaming if a fly zoomed by.

    Had the stage of her turning to me for the appropriate reaction passed? Had her genetic reaction just kicked in? Was I less successful than I thought at hiding my true feelings? Were the reactions of her peers to bugs now over-riding the parental reaction?

    You decide.

    Meilleurs voeux!!

    Like

    Comment by bluevicar — 28 April 2007 @ 12:55 pm

  7. All these reasons are possible, not to mention the fact that flies really are gross and disgusting. Nurture isn’t all it’s cracked up to be as a long-term influence. At least you didn’t impose the modeling bias on top of whatever genetic fear of flying things you passed on to her. Besides, given the large number of pathogens transmitted by flying insects, it would seem that people who flee from them would be more likely to survive, and to pass on their genes, than people who let the disgusting creatures land on them.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 28 April 2007 @ 3:55 pm


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: