“Do bats drink blood?” Dakota asks me out of nowhere. Without even giving me time to answer he continues, “What are we doing tonight?” then quickly follows his question up with, “Can we play video games?” His never-ending line of questions continues along as if he’s suddenly filled with a need to know all that is and ever has been. “What’s 100 plus 100?” “What color are dinosaurs?” His questions continue with no end in sight.
As I try to keep up with the answers, I wonder what compels him to try to know so much about so many different things. Is it simply a curiosity about the world, or is it some underlying human need to know? He continues to pose question after question, but as they roll off his lips, my mind wanders away from the conversation and struggles to make sense of the constant questioning. It’s not curiosity or human need that drives him; it’s the natural philosopher born and cultivated within every human child. He is not abnormal in his questioning. He is simply the common philosopher prince that we all come into the world as.
As Dakota so clearly illustrates, all children are born as natural philosophers. He is not acting on something he needed to be taught or on something that I as a parent instilled in his very being. He is simply being a human child, a creature of logic and an adventurer of knowledge. He is a prince among philosophers. He can ask the questions that no jaded adult would dare to even consider, and he does it both with humility and a genuine interest for the truth behind the answer.
Just as all humans strive for the truth behind knowledge, Dakota strives for the truth behind every bit of knowledge he seeks. He does not pursue knowledge with personal, financial or status gains in mind; he simply pursues them for the sake of knowing. In his quest he follows the true path of unadulterated philosophy.
He continues to ask surface questions about the world around him in his search for understanding. “How big is a blue whale?” This question baffles me even more, because it could not be farther from what is here and now. I pull up the internet and begin to feed him knowledge about the things he asks of me. With the joy of his knowledge being fed, his questions intensify farther. “Where did T-rex live?” I continually pull down answers and fuel his need to understand the epistemology of our world.
The internet fuel only seems to engorge his need for further knowledge, and suddenly he begins to shift into deeper and deeper questions. I find us discussing things that are not material but ideas. “How do you become American, Dad?” he asks.
Thinking I can avoid a lengthy description I shroud my answer with further mystery. “You have to get citizenship,” I answer.
Of course, this does not answer his question, so he follows the simple chain of logic and next poses the question, “How do you become a citizen, Dad?” He continues to ask invasive questions about the conceptual idea of citizenship, and as we discuss it I get the sense that he truly does understand it.
He dives even deeper as he tries to get a sense of how this might apply to the world stage. “How do you become a citizen in China, Dad?” My first thought is that I have no idea and have no idea how to find out, but I quickly throw that aside as I realize I know someone living in China. I jump back on the computer and shoot out an email outlining his query. Upon getting an answer back, I am sure this will be the end of this line of questioning, but as I read the reply email, Dakota takes it to a whole new level asking, “What is citizenship, and why do we have it?”
I’m taken aback by this one, because it’s something I have no answers to; it’s something I have not even asked myself. Not having answers, I realize I have no choice but to join him on this metaphysical quest for an answer that may not truly be possible to know.
Many times children can seem to be on a different and lower level of understanding, but when you truly begin to listen, it’s easy to see that they are on the same journey as every adult. They follow a simple and effective path towards the understanding of what is, what is not and why everything is or is not. In many ways, the mind of a child is far superior to that of an adult when measured philosophically.
Dakota’s lived quest for knowledge knows no boundaries and does not stop to consider the answers it may uncover. The typical American boundaries around the dark topic of death are cast easily aside as he asks, “What happens when you die?” His previous questions about why ideas are ideas threw me for a loop, but this new depth of questioning catches me even more off guard. I have no answers and am left with his worst nightmare as my only reply.
“I don’t know,” I quickly say, hoping not to be required to delve too deeply into this one. As I look into his bright blue ever wondering eyes, I can see him probing his inventory of knowledge for the next question. He sits motionless in the chair next to me and waits as if he will not give up on an answer from me. As the silence grows I can tell from his increasing restlessness that he is planning his next line of questioning, and as his mind reaches critical mass he squirms around in his chair and looks around the room for some type of inspiration, but then in a moment of revelation his eyes lock back onto mine as a signal that he is ready to resume his quest.
“Do we go to heaven, Dad?” he smartly asks as if to nullify my non-descript response. A mischievous smirk comes across his lips as he realizes he has me beat again; I have no answers, so I simply stare into his eyes searching for the reason he would want to know such things. His eyes reveal nothing as to why he would want to know; they only reflect his own self pride in stumping me.
Dakota knows I do not and cannot know all there is to know. He knows he can’t know all there is to know, and yet he never stops his search for just that. Deep within he is compelled to quest for everything he can get while he can get it. Society has not jaded his views of what is useful or logical to attempt gaining knowledge of, so he quests for the thing we all wish we could have. His current journey has one goal in mind and that goal is the unwavering need for everything. He is undoubtedly the philosopher prince.