We are born into delusion. Our earliest thoughts lead us to believe that we’re the most important people in the world. Why wouldn’t we think that? Our parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighbors and friends all coo at us and smile. Everyone works to make us happy; everyone puts forth effort to make us smile and then laugh.
This comes about for two reasons. First, happy babies make us happy. Second, crying babies make us irritable. We are hard-wired to want to procreate. It’s part of our genetic legacy to desire sex. Like all creatures, we wish to continue our species to the next generation and the next and the one after that.
So we experience sexual urges. Some would argue that it’s only the sexual act that is hard-wired into us and not the urge to produce children. That may be. But the two generally go hand in hand.
In addition, we encounter societal pressures, sometimes subtle, to have children as well, to continue our line, just as lions and mackerels and red-winged blackbirds do. It’s still a bit of an open question as to how much these urges are driven by genetics and how much they’re driven by society, but it can’t be denied that the pressures exist.
Moreover, whether the pressures come from nature or nurture, they become a part of us. We succumb to the desire that is inflicted on us and if we don’t, if we manage not to feel that pressure, we don’t have children, we don’t continue our line, we slowly extinguish our flame as the world burns around us.
Thus, over many generations, the result is a population that generally wants children. We become happy at the successes and unhappy at the failures. Crying children indicate that we might have failed in some way, so our bodies react strongly and quickly. Numerous studies have shown that oxytocin floods a mother’s brain when a baby cries.
Blood pressure and heart rate elevate, and skin electrical conductivity is increased in people of both sexes at a relatively young age. All this makes us want to respond, to ease our discomfort. And at least one study shows that babies begin to understand their cries produce a result (like a comforting mother) as early as eight weeks of age.
Because they have learned that they can manipulate the world, they begin to assume that they are in charge of it. I smile and Mommy smiles. I cry and Daddy picks me up. I scream for food and someone feeds me. How could anyone not reach the conclusion that they rule the world with that kind of feedback?
They understand causation to a point, and everything they do confirms that they’re kings and queens who have only to call to get servants rushing to their aid. Of course, this isn’t universal. Neglected babies feel abandoned and develop signs of stress, including lower levels of oxytocin and higher levels of cortisol.
But most babies come to believe that the universe revolves around them. It can take decades to fully disabuse them of this notion, and for some, the notion never completely dies. So for a good chunk of the population, life is lived under the delusion that we are the most important people in the world.
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