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12 Aug


At BlogHer, someone said to me – referring to the fellow who is guest-posting here – oh, your husband is so sweet, taking such good care of your baby. I was all, him? He’s just my internet husband. My real husband is taller. Which is to say that I think very highly of Mr. Backpacking Dad, and, also, that my real husband is really very tall.

Catherine is a philosopher. I hope to be one someday. She has also been quite heroic in her defense of mommy-blogging recently, and I want my heroes to like me. So when she asked me to write a guest post for her I immediately agreed. And I thought “I’ll be all philosophical on her blog so I don’t have to do it on mine.”

So, Catherine, this is what you get when you ask another philosopher to guest post for you. You get all of my crazy. You’re welcome.

There is a fantastic expression tossed around in philosophy of science: Carving the world at its joints. Imagine a roasted turkey, awaiting the blade. There are places on the turkey, edges, joints, where a minimum effort with a knife will result in the separation of a largely homogeneous piece from the bird; carving anywhere else results in tearing, or smaller pieces. There are natural edges, lying there, waiting to be found.

I used to have a t-shirt, one of those No Fear t-shirts, that read: “If you’re not living on the edge you’re taking up too much space.”

Put my daughter down in the middle of a huge, green, playing field, and she will make a bee-line for the nearest gate. It doesn’t matter where the gate leads, or how far away from her starting point it is, she wants to find out what exists over there, beyond the edge of the green. Every room she wanders into her first game is one of opening and closing the door, walking through it over and over again.

She lives there in the edge spaces, at the joints of the world.

I live over here, taking up space, keeping her safe. “No, Erin, stay in the middle of the field, where it is homogeneous, known, predictable, same, safe.” She lives to find the edge, to find the door, because there is always a door, always a gate leading somewhere else, somewhere new.

She is a fearless Lewis or Clark; no, she is more than an explorer, she is the guide. She is Sacagawea. I am a reluctant Lewis, my wife a hesitant Clark. She leads us to the edges and we discover anew this world, this gift, this unappreciated territory that has always been there.

We are there to make sure that nothing other puts out that fiery inquisitiveness; she is there to fan the embers of our smothered curiosity. Smothered by years of predictions proven right, of safety sought and found, of contemptuous familiarity.

This thing we do, we parent-bloggers this writing about our children, this parental punditry: What is it? It is finding the edges, inspired by our great teachers to have frank and open conversations about whether or not that gate should be passed through. Discussing with each other where the edge is, where we will and will not permit them to go.

Do you know why mommy-blogging is a radical act? Because it says, as a movement, that more important in our daily life than the technology we use, the businesses that support us, or the politics that influence our society, is parenting, and the family. It says put away your childish things and let us discuss, now, how we are to live our lives every day, and teach our daughters and sons to find the edges, the gates in the fence, and understand which ones they ought and ought not pass through. Marginalizing mommy-blogging is marginalizing the most important conversation that there is. There is no point in discussing the leadership of the nation if there are no members of society worth serving. There is no point in talking about the cell phones our children will use to call their Senators to discuss nuclear proliferation if those children are wolves or sheep instead of people. The wolf finds the edge because the sheep has fled toward it; the sheep finds the edge if chased. A person finds the edge out of fearless curiosity, and then teaches others where it is out of generosity of self.

Hey, look at that. I turned a nice piece about grass and turkey into a rant.

Again, Catherine, you’re welcome.