Thinking through metalogues
A conversation with my 4-year old
Isaac: Can you play with me?
Me: … I’m busy right now and I must finish my work.
Isaac: Mommy, don’t you wish there was an earthquake just now and we could run and hide under the dining table together — you, me, daddy and Nori. And maybe my unicorn too?
Me: Umm you want an earthquake so that I stop my work and play with you. I don’t wish anything remotely scary would befall us, and certainly not an earthquake!
Isaac: Awww but I like earthquakes… okay maybe a volcano then? We can play the floor is lava for real.
Me: Why do you have such apocalyptic fantasies?
Isaac: Is apo..calyptic like catas..trophic like when I took my car apart and could not put it back together and then the pieces got lost and I couldn’t find them for many days.
Me: Yes maybe a tiny bit, this would be far worse because earthquakes and volcanoes are a lot bigger and could cause a lot of damage from the ground shaking and the earth rupturing… buildings collapse, people could get injured or lose their lives, fires break out, cars get crushed, roads split open… trees get uprooted. You know, it’s all too frightening.
Isaac: But mommy, that sounds like so much fun. We can call the fire engine, ambulance, tow truck, digger, road roller and even a police car. See, I told you, it’s fun, it’s like… it’s like the earth has a wrecking ball crane inside, isn’t it?
Me: Oh! I see, all your favourite vehicles! But what if mommy and daddy got hurt by falling rubble? Would you care about the vehicles or would you feel sad for mommy and daddy?
Isaac: Both. Because I like vehicles and I love mommy and daddy. Why do I have to choose?
Me: Because you don’t want something that affects a lot of people in a bad way to happen, do you?
Isaac: But mommy the other day when we were reading the mountain book you told me that mountains are formed because of volcanoes and earthquakes…are mountains bad too?
Me: Not at all, in fact, mountains are nature’s gift to us, mountain snow melts to form rivers, rivers provide freshwater for more than half of the people on Earth, their forests are home to many birds and animals…do you remember I told you about biodiversity?
Isaac: What is bio…diver…city, mommy? Is it the story you told me when I wanted to use a straw and you said straws go to the ocean and then get stuck inside turtles’ nostrils… silly turtles!!! Why can’t they use the straw to drink water from the ocean!
Me: Yes, that’s the one, we should read that book once I’m done with my work. But you should know that turtles are in the ocean and know how to swim and drink water, unlike you — still learning to drink from a cup and does not know how to swim. Who’s silly now?!
Isaac: Nori! Because he doesn’t do anything but sleep. But but but, you said that mountains are good, so then earthquakes and volcanoes must be good too.
Me: Yes and no, they are good when they happen in faraway lands where there are no people who could get directly affected.
Isaac: But maybe if it happens to us there’ll be more water for all of us to drink? And more animals and birds…
Me: I don’t think there’ll be any of us left to drink the water. We’d all be dead and gone.
Isaac: Would we go to blackhole where all the stars go when they die?
Me: Hmm, I don’t know about where we’ll go but stars when they run out of the fuel and energy that keeps them living form a black hole. So, a black hole is basically a dead star.
Isaac: Awww… so the earth will die too?
Me: Hmmm after billions and billions of years, when it could likely get burnt by the sun in its red giant phase, it won’t happen anytime soon, so you don’t need to feel sad. You can certainly help slow down the process by not using plastic straws!
Isaac: Is billion more than one hundred? And if the sun is going to burn the earth will all the turtles and sea creatures also die?
Me: Yes, all life form will be wiped out. It’s turtles all the way down!
Isaac: Like dinosaurs who went extinct…that would be catas..trophic?
Me: Yes, very much so, but maybe humans will discover another planet to live on before that happens, so life will continue but just somewhere else.
Isaac: Would it be like Noah’s arc or maybe like Noah’s spaceship?
Me: Perhaps, I don’t think I will live to see that day, but maybe you will zip off to another planet, no?
Isaac: I only want to go to another planet if there are volcanoes and earthquakes, mommy. Or maybe if I get to make friends with the real aliens, then I can show them my alien brother toy and they’ll be happy.
Me: Firstly, it won’t be called and earthquake if you’re not on planet Earth! And if you’re on a new planet then you’ll be the one who is alien… and aliens won’t be alien anymore because only when we don’t know something about someone, we call them alien but they aren’t alien once you get to know them. And I see it’s lunchtime and you’re still not done with your breakfast. How about finishing your sandwich!
Isaac: But mommy, I want you to play with me.