A hole is to dig

Sometimes you don’t know what you want, you don’t know what things are for and you certainly don’t know what you are actually doing. I have been in this place. I’d been working and writing, with some mothering on the side, but none of it was going well, except the mothering, that was pretty good. I wasn’t working at full capacity and I’d convinced myself that it was freeing me up to write. Except I wasn’t. I wasn’t writing at all. My heart wasn’t in it. I hadn’t felt like it. Such a cop-out. It is a disciple after all. It is a calling after all. It had called me, and I had turned my face into the wind, to drown the calling shout.

The philosophical view of this could be that my purpose wasn’t clear. There was a lack of clarity about what I was becoming. There are many philosophers for whom this is an entire life’s work and writing. There are many people for whom this never becomes clear. For me, I wasn’t sure it wasn’t clear. I thought I knew. I was entirely wrong. As a philosopher, and after a month’s reflection, I now know this isn’t good enough. I can’t halfheartedly do anything.

A hole is to dig

Buttons are to keep people warm

Children are to love

A book is to look at

Ruth Krauss’s work A hole is to dig with Maurice Sendak’s beautiful illustration has stayed deep inside my mind since childhood. It is sub-titled ‘A First Book of Definitions’. From a philosophical point of view, this beguiling children’s book provides a breathtakingly simple and elegant example of what are called ‘artifacts’ and their functions. ‘A hole is to dig’, ‘a face is for making faces’. What something is for, what it is good for, is sufficient to explain what it is. This is, a rather computational, rational and logic based sort of philosophy. However, this little book is the perfect example of the theory of ‘artifacts’, or things are defined by their function. I have been unable to shake the fragment ‘a hole is to dig’. It has been rising to the surface of my mind almost daily.

It has caused me to wonder over and over, what am I for? What is my purpose? What am I doing?

I had found myself boxed in. Unable to see how my own thinking was limiting me. This is the great value of philosophy, and of children’s books, whether written by philosophers or not, they show you what you are. They also show you that your own nature can be concealed from yourself, but only for a little while.

Hands are to hold

A hand is to hold up when you want your turn

I am in danger of dislocating my shoulder my arm is so far up.

All references in italics from,  A hole is to dig, Ruth Krauss – words and Maurice Sendak – pictures, 1952. You can buy a copy for the child within who needs reminding of what holes are for here:

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