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Monday, 22 April 2013

Language, Ethics and Curiosity


Listen. Let me tell you.
Eden was a trick, a sham
like a show trial put on by an autocratic state.
Could not have ended any other way!
Not one of us,only a simpleton
would not have behaved
the only way the human mind
is programmed to behave.

How do I know? Well, let me tell you,
I have played at being God,
have seen it all pan out,
almost before my eyes. The dice,
I say, were loaded. Overloaded.
Could not have fallen any other way!

When I say I played at God,
I mean I set up my own Eden.
Part of it. The tree. Forbidden fruit.
And tempted those who were so innocent
they simply had to fall.

I chose my Edens with great care --
location being so important
in these modern times. Let me tell you
of the time I chose the rose wood table
and spread it with a range of goodies
tempting to a child: two paper-weights
complete with snow, some costume dolls,
a crystal ball, a box of soldiers,
a castle and a tower. And centre stage,
my tree of Good and evil:
a bright red Chinese lacquer box
that rose above them all.

Teachers brought in eight top infants,
sat them at my Eden and then left.
It was not long before the angel came
(School secretary with a pre-arranged, fictitious
phone call in the office.
Could I take it now?)

I tell them they may talk among themselves,
may pick up the objects and play with them --
but on no account may the box be touched!

Exeunt yours truly and the secretary.

Has he gone?
Dunno. Can't see...
Open the door a bit, then.
You be me!
We've not got long!
Not got long for what?
To see what's in the red box.
He said not to.
He won't know.
He might!
How?
Dunno. My gran, she was a teacher. My mum say she's got a nose for things like that. All teachers have!

That's nonsense. He'll never know!
Something might fly out if we lift the lid!
Like what?
When you look in this crystal ball you sees the classroom upside down!
It's humming!
What is?
The box, of course!
The windows go all out of shape in the corners.
Could be a bird in it then!
Birds don't hum, silly!
Some do!
Like what?
Humming birds!
That's their wings does that when they flying. There's not room to fly in the box, so it's not a bird.

I wonder why we can't open the box...
He thinks it's special, I s'pose.
It is special. It's got all these lovely lions all over it.
Don't be daft! Don't you know anything? They dragons, not lions. It's a Welsh box!
If you look right through it everything looks out of shape... only it's all behind you!
Welsh is dangerous. There's witches and things in Welsh!
That's why we mustn't touch it then! We might get spelled on!
I says we open it!
Who else says we open it?
That's all of us then, but not Peter.
No, he's too busy magicking with that there crystal ball! So Peter look away. Don't see us do it.

{LONG PAUSE}

Christmas!
It's a tape recorder!
AND it's running!
AND it's on record!
That's how he'll know!

The reference in the poem is to an investigation I made in an infant school into the development of language and an ethical "compass" in young children. It was in fact one of two such investigations. The other I have already posted in a more straight forward report form. You can read it here http://picsandpoems.blogspot.co.uk/2008/08/chalk-and-cheese.html

15 comments:

Mary said...

Eden indeed! Ha, who could resist this bright red Chinese box when one was told NOT to touch. I bet it would not be only children who would succumb to temptation.

aprille said...

I've always suspected that children really are adults in disguise and act like children to please us and because they know it works in their favour.
But this, especialy the 2008 version, is beyond belief and comprehension.
Being the driver in a carpool on the schoolrun is a real eye opener, as they think you are merely an extension of the steering wheel.

Dave King said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave King said...

Mary
Ah, yes, it's the prohibition that REALLY guarantees it, of course.

aprille
I agree with you on all points. Maybe they see us pretending to be adults and feel duty bound to present an appearance of being children.

You have my unreserved admiration for being that extension to the steering wheel! I'm sure it does have its rewards.

ThePeSla said...

Most interesting... I do check in with you and as I recall you had a whole series of haiku...

We but recall a shadow of that wide sensitivity and imagination children have...

I sometimes think the purpose of evolution is that thru us the universe can experience a few years of our childhood...

Edgar Otto the PeSla

jabblog said...

Wonderful! There's nothing so tempting as something forbidden.

kaykuala said...

Working with children can be most satisfying. Going deeper into investigations will all the more be useful to know them better! Nicely Dave!

Hank

Leovi said...

A great poem, I really like the depth of content, there's much to talk ...!

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

What an imaginative and at the same time utterly realistic picture.

Helena said...

A fine read. My temptations sit at a child's level!

Carl said...

Curiosity is part of the package and a mighty foe also sometimes it is Devine inspiration.

Rachna Chhabria said...

" I have played at being God,
have seen it all pan out,
almost before my eyes." This line clinched the whole poem for me."

Elephant's Child said...

I would have almost certainly have succumbed myself. And am not even very sorry. 'Curiosity killed the cat, satisfaction brought it back'.

Dave King said...

ThePeSla
Hi good to have you calling, and many thanks for the comment. Yes, you are correct, I did have a Haiku series, and keep thinking I must reintroduce them into my blog.

Love your purpose of evolution idea. It appeals to something inside me!


jabblog
Thanks. Absolutely agree.

Hank
Yes that was part of the idea, of course. But not specifically to know that particular group. I was just visiting their school, but to know something of the genera of children, how they tick, how they form their ethical codes etc.

Leovi
Much thanks for this.

Tommaso
Yes, it was strange. So much what was expected from that particuar group, and yet so many talking points.

Helena
Hi, Good to have your company. Thanks for leaving a thought. It seems we share the same level!

Carl
Sure, can be a mighty foe. I never did look into that aspect. Might have missed a trick there!

Rachna
This is the sort of comment that is so helpful. Many thanks for making it.

Elephant's Child
Wonderful! I had not heard that last line until now!



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