Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Baby Attraction and Reaction

Absolutes in our world are few and far between. Death and taxes, of course, are the two biggies that come to mind. However, the two absolutes that are, in my opinion, more abundant than "death and taxes" are the following: The law of Gravity and the ability that babies have for bringing out wild spikes of emotion resulting in high octave squeals among certain people.

Sure, we all know what gravity is. We all experience gravity all the time. Its an absolute. However, the second absolute might not be as obvious if your not a parent. This absolute is characterized as an eruption of some people at the mere sight of a baby noticible as a high pitched vocal noise with wild spikes of emotion that normally don't exist in nature. Why is an absolute? It will occur with all babies without fail. If you've seen this, then you know what I am talking about.

What is the root cause of these strong forces--absolutes, if you will--in nature that seem so diametrically opposed? For some perspective, let's try to tackle the first. Gravity.

Over the last few centuries, physicists' knowledge of gravity has increased at a rate unlike any period in human history. The Law of Universal Gravitation (Issac Newton's brainchild) which describes gravity in great detail is still used today in some applicationn. In a revolutionary move to describe what causes gravity, Einstein came up with his Theory of General Relativity in 1915 which stated that the presence of mass, energy, and momentum causes something called "spacetime" to become curved. Thus, gravity exists because of this curvature.

Don't feel bad if all of this abstract science is hard to grasp. Just remember that Einstein formulated this in his spare time IN HIS HEAD WITHOUT COMPUTERS and since then, experiments done to confirm this curvature have all checked out. The bottom line is gravity exists everywhere. Whether you're here on earth or 15 billion light-years away (that's 88,177,302,054,810,000,000,000 miles--88 sextillion) in one of the first galaxies to form after the big-bang, gravity (as far as we can tell) is present.

Babies are very similar to this universal gravity concept that Newton formulated and Einstein expounded upon. Instead of attracting planets or other heavenly bodies, babies attract people. It's as simple as that. Race, color, creed or religion, it doesn't matter. Babies pull people in. Regardless of what we are doing at the time, we always make time to look at the little bundle of joy in the stroller in the food court at the mall. There's no way around it. Think about it: have you ever witnessed a situation whether at the mall or at a family gathering where a baby doesn't cause people to gravitate to them? Exactly.

Is this universal baby attractive force present everywhere and is this attraction the cause of that high pitched verbal reaction that Aunt Betsy gives when she sees little Johnny during the holidays? We know, obviously, that this baby attraction is present on earth. Whether it exists on an other planet in a galaxy far, far away isn't known. We assume however--albeit against proper scientific method--that if we somehow traveled at warp speed in a spaceship to a planetary system a gazillion miles away with an infant, that baby would still attract a crowd. While the attraction goes hand-in-hand with the verbal reaction, we can't say for sure that is the REAL cause.

What then IS the cause of the instantaneous emotional reaction when a baby is present? We tried to look for an answer in the studies of one of the smartest minds of all-time--Albert Einstein--but that didn't lead us to much information. Why? Evidentally, he spent most of his life researching the universe and aforementioned universal gravity concept but conveniently passed on trying to describe this high pitched, deafening squeal babies create in some people. He no doubt realized its complex nature and thought up his Theory of Relativity instead.

Let'e back up and state a few facts:

Babies in public attract other people especially if they are cute. At some point, some subconscious, involuntary, neurological reaction occurs, mostly with women but not always, when a baby is seen at a close distance. Now, seeing the baby is key. You can hear the baby or smell the lotion on a baby but this seizure-like excitement won't occur until you actually see him. The reaction manifests itself in an out-of-control spasm accompanied by a frantic verbal exclamation which is 4 octaves higher than normal speech. What is said can vary but most of the time it is usually:

"Ohhhhhh....he is sooooooo cuuuuuute!"

You don't just say this. You stretch it out for at least 10 seconds. Long enough to paralyze people within 15 feet. Glass items such as coffee pots, mirrors and wine glasses crack or shatter all together. Dogs bark in shear terror and car alarms go off without warning. In essence, the apocalypse that ensues is tantamount to a small thermonuclear explosion but without the radiation. Its a wonder that babies don't cry more when they are subjected to it.

According to OSHA guidelines, decibel readings above 85 are considered harmful and could cause hearing loss. Needless to say, many mothers and fathers are suffering from hearing damage from these high pitched reactions. If you are anticipating one of these reactions, proper ear protection should be worn.

This past weekend, I witnessed a middle-aged woman expand her octave range at the expense of my ears along with every dog in a 3 mile radius. Her uncontrollable excitement over her first glance at my child was the most unbelievable display of emotion I have ever seen.

My son, in my opinion, sets the cute scale bell-curve quite high so he attracts his fair share of people. (I'm just his father with a totally unsolicited, unbiased opinion of my son.) But the event that occurred as this woman saw my kids was pure torture! Don't get me wrong. Its wonderful to see a person show so much emotion toward your new child. As a parent, you couldn't ask for more. But when your ear drum resonates like a tuning fork, that's plenty for me.

Yet the question still remains: What universal force emanating from babies that causes people to display such excitement? If it manifested itself like magnetism or electricity, we would be able to measure it. If it showed properties similar to light, we would see it. Yet the force causing baby attraction and the resulting ear-piercing reaction remains unseen without properties that we can quantify.

Maybe science isn't the road to take in our exploration of this. Maybe baby attraction and reaction and the forces that create it aren't something that were created to be "measured" in the traditional sense.

Maybe that instantaneous, emotional reaction of cosmic proportions people give when they see a baby stems from the their innocence and delightful demeanor unblemished by society and the complexities of everyday life. Then again, it might orginate from something deeper, something well beyond our comprehension.

Maybe its a feeling that we should just embrace as an intangible component of human creation instead of trying to analyze it analytically. Yeah, the high pitched reaction might be like nails on a chalk board at first. But once you step back and observe the real meaning behind it, you can't help but embrace it as one of those powerful emotions that accompany parenthood and the people who share it with you.