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Archive for Thursday 12th December 2002 - What are babies crying about?

Some parents think their baby is crying because it needs attention. But whatever they do, it still cries.

The explanation I like best is an old one. It says that new-born babies come straight from heaven where all is perfect. When they emerge into our lower state of existence they are shocked and disappointed. So, naturally they cry. That story was taught by St Pelagius, a Celtic missionary in the fourth century. It caused uproar in Rome. The church’s story was (and still is) that human nature has never been perfect since the Fall of Adam. Even the youngest babe has wickedness in it. Pelagius was condemned as a heretic, and his teachings were suppressed. My inclination is towards Pelagius. His outlook seems practical, because if you look for the goodness around you, it makes you happier.

Some babies are born miserable, and are angry throughout childhood. Other parents say their child is a little angel, and was born like that. So there is no certain answer to why babies cry. It could be that they are homesick for the paradise they once knew. Or perhaps the church is right, and they are just crying for the hell of it.

John Michell

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Unexplained Phenomena, A Rough Guide Special
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Who Wrote Shakespeare?
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