Object Permanence (It’s A Metaphor)

If a baby doesn’t see it
It’s as if it never was—
It just vanishes, enveloped
By confusing, blooming buzz
There’s no trace of it remembered
So it never will be missed—
If a baby doesn’t see it
Then that thing does not exist

When a thing just stops existing
If it isn’t in one’s view,
For a baby, that’s adorable,
But not for me or you.
“Object Permanence” emerges
As a baby learns and grows
Things exist without your seeing them…
As every toddler knows.

There are horrid things that happen
(It may come as some surprise)
That you never get to witness
With your sheltered, privileged eyes
You could always just deny them
And convince yourself—well, maybe…
But…no, it’s not excusable—
You see… you’re not a baby.

It occurs to me that this particular metaphor is really multi-purpose. So I’m not going to say what prompted this verse just yet. Place your bets in the comments, and I’ll fess up at some point, which point depends on how many people are actually placing bets (ok, not bets, but guesses, leave me alone gaming commission!). Do feel free to spread this verse far and wide, to encourage guesses outside your own field of vision…

***bonus points for the first to identify the source of the blooming buzzing confusion reference. No googling.***


  1. chigau (違う) says

    So I see.
    Must have been the “William”.

    Still can’t think what sparked this.
    Other than … life …

  2. Cuttlefish says

    Well, yeah, life… but I can see at least three completely separate potential muses for this…

  3. Cuttlefish says

    Wow! No and no, and I must say I would not have guessed either of those!

    Ok… on second thought, one of them, very tangentially, could be it. But one or two orders of magnitude removed from the actual muse.

  4. chigau (違う) says

    after midnight for me
    I was going for current events!!!.
    Tonight, I have no other guesses.

  5. Johnny Vector says

    Sounds like someone had a mawkish, Dawkish refusal to believe in some sort of injustice or another. There’s a lot of that going around though, so I don’t have a specific who.

  6. Cuttlefish says

    We have a winner! William James, 1890.

    Though, Johnny Vector, the specific blindness in this case (and yes, there are any number of possibilities) was in Imani Gandy’s twitter stream. If you don’t follow her (@AngryBlackLady), you are really missing out.

  7. says

    Aw. I was right! I wasn’t sure, though, and didn’t want to Google, per your rules.

    And I should have realized you were referring to Imani Gandy’s timeline. EVERYONE should follow Imani Gandy. Also Elon James White (@elonjames) and Aaron Rand Freeman (@ANSFreeman). This Week in Blackness is my favorite radio (and also now video) show, so I’m huge fans of all three.

    But Imani’s timeline lately… ugh. I hate that she has to put up with that.

  8. PatrickG says

    It was unfair of you to post this so shortly after I came back from vacation. On the other hand, once the pictures are sorted, I have a Philippines Cuttlefish reference for your viewing pleasure. :)

  9. PatrickG says

    Oh, implied in this is that I would have TOTES GOT IT RIGHT. Though I think that was because of a post of PZ’s, so … credit where credit is due.

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