Monday, August 01, 2022

How To Become The Kind Of Adult Accomplice Our Children Need

Fin whales, the second largest animals on earth after blue whales, can communicate across entire oceans. They are capable of producing extremely low-pitched calls that travel up to 13,000 miles under water. They are also capable of hearing those sounds which means that a fin whale off the shores of Bermuda can "talk" to whales hanging out near Ireland. 

Mice and other rodents carry on like birds, twittering, chirping, and singing, yet they do so at such high-pitched frequencies that they're undetectable to the human ear.

Many fish interact with the world through electrical fields, turning their bodies into batteries, essentially extending their sense of touch beyond their physical bodies. Migratory birds, sharks, and a host of other animals orient according to the earth's magnetic fields. We know they do these things even though, as humans, we have no way to being able to imagine what it might be like to "see" through electricity or "hear" through magnetism. Indeed, we are even limited to the metaphors of sight and sound which probably have little in common with the actual experience.

There is so much going on in the world about which we are totally unaware. This is true of all species. We are trapped in the bubble of our senses, or what scientists call our umwelt. The entire umwelt of some spiders are the vibrations of their webs. The umwelt of bats consists largely of echoes. Even the umwelt of the dogs who sleep in our beds is largely incomprehensible to us.

We struggle to understand what it might be like to experience the world as another species, just as we often struggle to understand the different experiences and perspectives of our fellow humans. Teacher Tom's Play Summit presenter Nick Terrones, the director of the all-tribes Daybreak Star preschool in Seattle, tells us that Indigenous people conceive of other species, including plants, as relatives, an idea that might be alien to someone, say, from a European background which has long viewed Mother Nature as a collection of resources to exploit.

While it may be impossible to fully understand the experience of other species, all we have do to understand other humans is to be curious and to listen with the intention of understanding. I'm grateful for Nick and all of our summit presenters as they've helped me to see the world through their eyes, through their traditions and cultures, through their respective umwelts. They are showing me truths about which I was totally unaware, helping me overcome the hubris and arrogance of believing that my own perspective is all there is. I'm grateful to them for expanding my understanding of who we are.

They have also, just as importantly, shown me where our umwelts overlap, creating connection and relationship, showing me that we are all relatives, and making it possible for me to go through the world, as Nick says, "Not just as allies, but as accomplices."

This, and only this, is how we expand beyond our bubbles to become the curious and connected adult accomplices our children need us to be.


To watch my full interview with Nick, please join us August 13-17 for the free Teacher Tom's Play Summit. Click here to get your free pass and learn more about all 20 of our incredible sessions with early childhood experts and thought-leaders from around the world. You will be inspired, informed, and challenged. Professional development certificates are available and you can upgrade to unlimited access. Please share this far and wide. It's only though connection and relationship that we can ever understand our world.

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