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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.
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!
When you look in this crystal ball you sees the classroom upside down!
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!
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.
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