Letter to My Grandson xxxxv: Existential questions from a six-year-old

You were sitting in the back seat of our car with cousin Matilda when you said: “Matilda, how do I know I am me?”

Matilda did not reply. She is four years old and I don’t think that she understood the question.

You went on to explain: “If was born at a different time, would I still be me?”

What is going on in the head of a six-year-old boy to come up with questions like that?

Clearly, some pretty deep thinking about the nature of existence and being, although you are probably not old enough to explain it In those terms.

I suspect that you probably thinking about your family relationships in ways that you can not yet express to adults.

We explained that you would probably be about the same. You would have the same mum and dad, the same grandparents and everything else would be much the same: where you live, the school you go to, where Nana and Papa live and where Matilda, Nick and Susie live.

But I know that there are things that you would like to change. You often talk about everybody living happily in a big house together. We explain this is never going to happen because everybody has their own a houses now. But it’s poignant to know it is something you wish for.

I have been thinking about this because it is a question that very few people consider and it’s difficult to know quite what to say to 6 year old when he asks this question.

I’ve also been thinking about what we could or could not have told you.

That the new you would be like a brother. You would probably look a bit different. That the new you would not meet the old you. The two of you would not coexist, but this conversation for much later.

Then there is a question of what you would be like if your mum and dad had never met. What kind of you would you become?

1 thought on “Letter to My Grandson xxxxv: Existential questions from a six-year-old

  1. Well Tim, what do you expect when you give Winston Kant’s Critiques for Christmas? If you had given him Peirce’ six volumes he would probably not have had to ask such a question!

    Sent from my iPhone


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