Kids are born hunters.
“Can I go catch a grasshopper?” asks my son at dawn.
“Sure” we tell him, and off he goes through the dog-door, clad in cape and undies, to creep around the dewy lawn with his jar. The jar rarely comes home empty.
“You have to be quiet.” he tells me when I’m asked along, and “They like it by our neighbor’s fence this time of day”, or “Shuffle your feet like this so they’ll hop …It’s too hot on the rocks when it’s sunny”. He’s made a study of it.
Direct pursuit of edible organisms was the primary means of making a living for most our specie’s evolutionary arc. It’s only natural that the inclination to find, pursue, claim and capture is etched into all of our behavioral circuit boards. But kids have an advantage. The fact that the underlying paths of that circuitry become obscured with “maturity” – that we reshape our impulses to fit societal conventions, and filter our inclinations through convoluted systems of symbols and proxies until the underlying stimulus is undetectable in its resulting response, and our conscious mind is wholly ignorant of its subconscious master – has not yet afflicted them.
An example: I want food and security so I go to a small climate controlled, artificially lit room in a tall building, five days a week, to stare at a box with flashing lights, and talk to people I can’t see through a synthetic horn, and make lots of squiggly lines on paper. Through mechanisms too complex and absurd to outline here, that daily ritual is transformed into food and shelter – neither of which would be recognizable to my not so distance ancestors – for me and my family. Then once a year, to scratch a persistent itch which I can’t quite put my finger on, I acquire special permission from a collective authority to hike around in the mountains for a few weeks, trying to kill an animal or two.
Meanwhile my son, equally interested in a full belly, just gets up every morning and stalks grasshoppers. And he’s good at it.
“Dada, Dada!” He yells running to the porch “I caught a monster!” Just last week he was happy to catch anything. Now, driven by some intrinsic need to learn and hone his skills, he’s raised the bar and is testing himself against the big boys.
“Holy cow.” I say genuinely surprised by the bug. “You did catch a monster.”
“Uh huh. Where are you going?”
“Ok” he says “I’m gonna stay here and hunt.”
The pride is his voice is unmistakable. I like to think the tone of pity is only imagined.