I was born twice.
Of course, I endured my natural birth and made it into the physical world, but this was just the beginning. Some seven years later, I experienced my cultural birth.
Let me explain.
When I was a kid, our next-door neighbors had a swimming pool in their backyard. It had a big deck with a fence. This pool had been an immense source of joy to numerous kids in the neighborhood, but I was deeply afraid of it, considering I wasn’t a very good swimmer.
One day, while walking around the deck, I stepped on a loose board and proceeded to fall–clothes and all–into the water. I wasn’t in for very long because my teenage neighbor was nearby on the deck; he jumped in and saved me.
Embarrassed and soaking from my head to my shoes, I ran home without thanking my savior, who was glad to see I was okay.
This entire ordeal, as I look back now, served as my entrance into reality–my cultural birth. My falling in forced me to become aware that there are numerous dangers in the world and that I am extremely vulnerable. I saw myself in relation to others and began to judge my strengths and weaknesses against theirs.
I also got a sense of my body and its position(s) in space-time. If I had just missed that wobbly board or had a moment to catch myself before falling in… My young mind went through all the various ways in which I could have prevented this disaster by being more aware of my body and its surroundings.
But that’s just it. I wasn’t fully conscious of my body until after I fell in the pool. The fact that I was wearing all my clothes when I hit the water made matters worse because of how uncomfortable I felt, both in a physical and emotional sense. Wet clothes are a drag on the body and so is the embarrassment of entering your house with them on.
In general, I felt stupid. But I also felt real.
See, we all have to fall out of our isolated selves and into culture if we wish to participate actively in the world. My cultural birth occurred at age seven and I haven’t been the same ever since.