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
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.