Eclipse of the Moon by Mary Susanah Robbins - HTML preview

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Transformations are real.

We know this because they take time.

The greater the number of transformations

occurring in a spoken sentence, the more time

it takes for the hearer to understand it.

Good evidence for this comes out of tests

in which the hearer is asked to term

a given sentence true, or false.

An example is the sentence:

"Canaries are birds," to which the hearer

responds quite quickly, "That is true,"

and "Birds are canaries,"


to which the speaker says, more slowly, "False."

Non-truth statements contain more transformations

to understand. Amelie says this is intuitively

true, to her: that she responds more slowly

to some statements than to others. This is true.

Good evidence for this is that she told me

two nights ago at dinner, when she'd called me

saying, "I feel as though I'm underwater,"

and I had been afraid all my transgressions

could not reform themselves by a single statement

like, "I'm quite capable of listening

to those who've listened to me," but still had gone

and talked of everything under the sun

and finally even myself, reduced to normal,

forgetting Amelie was anything

but Amelie, and she, being there, and listening,

as usual, said, "Sometimes it takes more time

for me to absorb some statements and respond."

She also said she thought things like this needed

to be said so that the other speaker

would understand that she was listening,

and would respond, but that it took more time.

An example of a quick response

to a truth statement is that I replied,

Of course. I think that people understand that.


In New York this Saturday Natasha

showed me these tests of time and transformations.

I had not seen Natasha in four years.

She has a child now, left psychology

to learn cognition, as I'm leaving English

to do linguistics. What she said helps prove

Chomsky is right, and transformations real.


Yet when I called tonight, and Amelie

said that these tests confirmed her intuitions,

I said, though speechless, nothing more confirming

than, Yes. What all my heart and memory

confirmed underwater, remained, and was unsaid.


I thought of Roy's answering, when I asked,

after some new, departmental miscalculation,

"Why is it all so fucked up?" "I don't know,"

with love and happiness, "but it is," and I

thought, Then I'm right that all our schedules

aren't working

and he turned and walked away, and left me

suddenly lovingly and happily knowing

we meant everything, and to each other.

Can I not say, the next time, tomorrow

to Amelie, "It's true?" We know a question

takes many transformations and much time,

and truth statements and affirmations, little.


I can be more like Roy and more like Amelie

now that even Natasha, who, remember,

was in psychology four years ago,

and had not child, is more like me. That's true,

Birds are canaries and also other birds.

For I'd respond more quickly, I laughed to Amelie,

To the false statement, and I'd say it's true.

My old psychiatrist once said to me,

sweat pouring from his metaphorical brow,

"I could say the moon's made of green cheese

and you'd agree." And it was true, I would have.

I would have known exactly what he meant.

Then all I knew was that his taunt was true.

Transformations are real and they take time.


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