Robot Carer 6

And this brings us right back to The Servant. (Remember him?)

Family life, parenting, was so new and unfamiliar that I had no opinion on it at all. It was so far beyond my experience that I didn’t even know I had no opinion. It was an honour that I thought not of[1]. Jo blazed a trail, reading the parenting books and websites, discussing the issues with other young mothers, and I just drifted along in her wake, agreeing to her decisions, although I often had to (cack-handedly) enact these decisions, because Jo was at work.

Somewhere in my befuddled brain, I recognised the importance and the responsibility of the job before us. I knew I’d have to throw myself into the parenting of these precious, vulnerable, impressionable little creatures, but I saw this entirely in terms of externalised activity. I thought if I demonstrated love and care, if I expressed love and care and undertook the activities of love and care, love and care would be what the children experienced. Or I didn’t think. I vaguely assumed. My inner self existed, crouched, hidden, in a locked room, thinking and feeling nothing. I assumed this was the same for everyone.

I didn’t realise that the self is permeable. It doesn’t exist as a hard, unchanging nugget; sloughing off the rest of the world the way your waterproof skin does rain: water off a duck’s back. The self is spongy; it absorbs its environment. You are partly formed of the opinions of those around you: their values, their view of who you are, how you fit in or don’t: call a dog a bad name…

Humans[2] are so sensitive to the subtlest cues and signals, subconsciously, so empathetic to others – their sense of self, their experience – that they are almost telepathic. And they do this automatically. Starvation makes you lose it. That’s when you realise what miracles you used to perform. Every day. Even the most selfish of us.

“Such are the strange acoustics of the life of the spirit, such it’s strange spatial arrangement.”[3]

So, I think, somewhere in the backs of their minds, the children knew. They can tell a charlatan when they see one, a quack, a false prophet, a replicant, a simulacrum, an automaton, a hollow man.

It’s stored up, somewhere in their messed-up heads, waiting for the litigious therapist to unlock it. Then I’ll get my comeuppance. I wait in dread.

Footnotes

[1] Come on, you know where this is from! You did it at school!

[2] I rarely count myself among them.

[3] Soren Kierkegaard, The sickness Unto Death, 2008, London: Penguin, p.142. I don’t understand most of Kierkegaard. He’s talking about people’s relationship to God, or something; I am not. I’ve repurposed his words.

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