Requiem for Ink
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Requiem for Ink

Baby’s First Transaction.

Technically he’s not a baby any more. He turned two years old in March. This is a hard truth for a grandparent to digest.

But there was no denying the fading days of his babyhood when we spoke via FaceTime the other day.

My grandson has been adept at the technology for some time. I don’t know what clever handle will be used for his generation. I hope something more along the lines of Generation Alpha than Generation Omega. But already I’ve seen how their ease with technology will put even their millennial parents to shame.

The big news he shared during our FaceTime session was his new truck. Not just any truck. But a truck pulling a trailer. And on that trailer, a Caterpillar style excavator. Or as he calls it, a digger. A truck/trailer/digger rig. This is the trifecta of a young man’s imagination.

There’s even a small plastic guy that can be moved from the cab of the truck to the seat of the digger.

And how did this wonder come into his possession? It was a transaction, I was informed.

My grandson had traded his last remaining pacifier for the new rig.

He gets a killer new toy. His parents get to retire his collection of pacifiers to a high shelf in the closet.

Capitalism is alive and well among the toddler set.

Some might argue this is not a good thing. They see the coming of a fresh-faced new generation as a chance for society to finally rid itself of the capitalist system with all its predatory defects.

Not me. I see it as reason to hope the coming generation may finally get the whole capitalism thing right. Here is a two-year-old who appreciates the ethics of the system in ways that elude the tycoons currently trying to run the economy.

I was impressed by his solemn respect for the deal he’d made, and his enthusiasm for both ends of the bargain.

On the one side was what he’d gained. Machinery is a big deal in his young life. Diggers are his particular fascination. I have watched him play for hours with the collection of little metal construction vehicles he found in the drawer of my son’s old nightstand. He’ll push a digger on its rubber tread and work the small metal bucket on the end of its articulated arm to dig gently at the fibers on the carpet. At the magazines on the coffee table. At the bricks in the fireplace. At the fur on the dog.

So the receiving side of the transaction was easy. Who doesn’t want a new toy? But what amazed me was how well he understood the value of what he was giving up.

Few things are as personal in the life of a baby as a pacifier. At the beginning it represents Mom herself. Time passes, and the pacifier takes on a sentimental value all its own. On some days my grandson would select a pacifier from his collection with the keen passion of an aficionado considering the fine Cubans in his cigar humidor. Other times he’d come down from his nap with a pacifier stuck in each corner of his mouth and two more wrapped in his small fist.

Given the importance of his pacifiers, surely he’d have some buyer’s remorse over the deal. The halo of newness would wear off the toy. He’d demand the return of his pacifiers.

This is what people living in our cynical era would expect. It’s why we could all benefit from more dealings with two-year-olds.

If my grandson has any misgivings about trading his pacifiers for the new rig he’s keeping them to himself. He remains earnest in his determination to uphold his end of the bargain. He’s taking pride in his contribution to what he considers a fair deal.

I hope we’re entering an era where that sort of altruism won’t get wrung out of kids as they enter school and the meaner aspects of our culture go to work on them. The world is changing, after all. The big trading jobs on Wall Street are all done by robots and algorithms. Not so long ago everyone was buying into the idea that governing itself was just one big deal, and you wanted to be among the winners sticking it to the losers. Now that’s come up a total bust as governing philosophy and we’re all ready to move on to a more imaginative sort of politics.

In an October 18, 2015 essay for the New York Times, journalist Clair Cain Miller wrote that the old Darwinian view of work was fading and the important new skills were “Cooperation, empathy and flexibility.” She titled the piece “Why What Your Learned in Preschool Is Crucial at Work.” Hence my optimism. I‘ve been watching this play out in the life of a two-year-old.

We put so much stock in the coming generation because in them we see humanity at its best. Maybe we can hope this time around it won’t get lost.



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Sheldon Clay

Sheldon Clay


Writer. Observer of mass culture, communications and creativity.