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4 Life and Death Reunited

do complicated sentences when words picked out from over the whole extent were pointed at. Everyone was thrilled and she enjoyed the excitement. One day soon after that, a guest came to that room. He asked about the materials hanging on the wall. It happened that to make him see what they were capable of eliciting from learners he could be shown what a child, not yet two, could produce in English out of a restricted number of words, Pat was fetched by her father. She was still small enough to be held in one arm, with the pointer in one hand and her on the other. Pointing at a word that Pat knew and had read earlier, on its own as well as involved in sentences she was invited to say it. She looked at the word, looked at the guest, looked at the person pointing and, simply and firmly said: “I don't know.” She was shown other words and each time she repeated “I don't know.” Bargaining with her she was told that one knew that she knew each of them and that she was not being cooperative. But she did not budge. She only said: “I don't know.” After a while she was let go. The guest could have known nothing of what was going on in and among the people present, who resorted to explanations instead of the spectacular demonstration that had been foreseen. For days I meditated on that event. I discussed it with Pat's mother who was very close to her and the obvious conclusion was that Pat had done everything deliberately. She had chosen to say: “I don't know,” rather than saying anything at all for each of the words pointed at, as many students do in circumstances where they cannot read. She knew that if she stuck to: “I don't

51

On Death  

"Is there any hope that we may ever know what death is? Since it is a problem of knowing, we need to find the epistemological devices that w...

On Death  

"Is there any hope that we may ever know what death is? Since it is a problem of knowing, we need to find the epistemological devices that w...

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