How Notions Are Formed

Xin Wen

PureInsight | March 29, 2004

[] My five-year-old son is a very active child. Compared to other children of the same age, he often seems very naïve and knows little about the world. He is like a clean sheet of white paper. My wife and I sometimes do not know whether we should cry or laugh over certain things that he does.

One day when I was teaching him the English word "ball," he took out around ten balls of different sizes and lined them up on the floor based on their size. I then taught him one by one the various ball types such as table tennis ball, tennis ball, water ball, student football, football, basketball, and so on. He earnestly repeated each name after me. The student football was actually a hard plastic ball smaller in size than a standard football. His mother used to put the ball into the water when he was younger and he liked to play with water.

One day, he put those balls on the living room floor Then he pretended that he was a teacher and asked his mother to say the name of each ball. When his mother said the same word as I had taught him, he would praise his mother like a teacher praising his favorite student. He would say, "Yes. Good!" When his mother called the student football "plastic ball," he gravely said that, "Wrong. Think again!" His mother then said that it was a water ball. He quickly got the water ball I taught him and corrected his mother seriously. He said, "This is the water ball. Have you forgotten?" When his mother tried to explain it to him, he was not convinced and called me loudly. He complained to me that his mother did not listen to him. After I understood the entire process, I touched his head gently and explained to him why the "student football" can also be called a "plastic ball" or "water ball." He looked at me angrily, not believing that I could be so unprincipled and call the same ball different names.

"Look at my son," I sighed. From my heart I thought, "How difficult it is to break through human notions once they are formed!"

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