Friday, February 23, 2018

Creating Meaning And, Godlike, Laughing As He Did It

"Teacher Tom, this is fluid."

"This?" I asked, pointing at the container of muddy water at his feet.

"Yes, it's called fluid."

"What are these other things?"

"That one is solid. And that one is gas."

"Ah," I said, "Solid, gas and liquid."

"No!" he responded with some urgency, "It's solid, gas, fluid!"

I'd noticed him down in the corner of the playground working on this demonstration for some time. Somewhere, probably at home, maybe from a parent, he had encountered the three states of matter and was now, through his play, recreating it for himself the way children do with things that interest them. It was almost as if he was intuitively following the surgeon's maxim, "see one, do one, teach one." He was now teaching me, using models of his own creation.

I explained, "Liquid is another word for fluid."

He thought about that for a moment, then as if correcting a particularly dense pupil, "A fluid is something like water . . . No! It's like pee!" He was delighted by this and I laughed with him, both because it was true and because of the word "pee." 

"And Teacher Tom, the solid is poop!" Again we laughed together. Then, without missing a beat he added, "And the gas is a fart!"

One might recoil at his crudeness, but that would be to ignore the beautiful genius of a young brain applying abstract concepts to his concrete world, creating meaning and, godlike, laughing as he did it.

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