Psychology. Ever since my first brush with that subject, I’ve always thought of it as fascinating. To grasp how the mind works, to be able to tell what a person will do next, to be able to surmise why a person does the things he does. To understand the being. Such are the things that pulls me into that subject and entices me to try and learn more.
Now, there is one particular theory of the human person that I’ve never forgotten since I first heard it: that of tabula rasa – a Latin term which means “empty slate”. This is Aristotle’s theory that each child is born as an empty slate, that people become the way they are due to the nurture that they experience throughout their lives.
This theory came to my mind this afternoon while I was on the ride back from school. I had a soda with me and, when I got on that jeep trying to take a seat, this child, an infant, a baby, was reaching out for my soda as if she knew it was hers to accept. Her mother had to stop her and move her hand. I absolutely didn’t know what to make of it. Perhaps, it looked as if I was handing it to her.
Her mother, and, if I’m not mistaken, her grandmother, started talking to me as if we’ve known each other quite long for they were mainly asking about the condition of my father and his state of recovery, or lack thereof. I was cordial, as I usually am when I have such encounters, but I honestly didn’t have an inkling of an idea as to who those people were. I should apologize but it isn’t like I can.
I was smiling and looking at the child but it wasn’t until the conversation was over that I really noticed her expression. She wasn’t smiling back, she didn’t look like she was about to cry, she didn’t look afraid, she didn’t look indifferent, she didn’t look as if she wanted my soda.
She was giving me one of those looks that make me really wonder what goes on in the mind of a child that can barely express herself: wide eyes, innocent but seemingly welling up with curiosity. She looked as if there were a lot of questions bouncing about in her head but was patient enough to wait until the answers just come to her in their appointed time.
I don’t understand it. I never did. Perhaps, I never will.
Aristotle’s case of the tabula rasa is a strong argument in favor of nurture as a guiding force to one’s development. This theory also serves to tell me that perhaps those eyes were simply staring with wonder the way they always do when they see new people and new things, perhaps they were simply amazed with the vision of something new, or even, perhaps they were just plain innocent, that they have that look in their eyes and such remains until a different form of understanding dawns upon the child.
The case may be so but tabula rasa cannot erase my wonderment about the eyes of a child. Besides, hasn’t it been said that “the eyes are the windows to the soul“?
However, it is also quite possible that this can be my own curiosity going in an odd direction.
Perhaps I will never know that truth about the matter. Perhaps no one ever truly will. But I know that it will be true to me that, every time a child stares at me with wide eyes seemingly full of questions and wonder about my person, I myself will have that many questions and wonders.