The Talking Walking Stick LO24346

Date: 04/11/00

Dear Learners

Four or five years ago a friend gave me a walking stick. About three
months ago on a 'usual' walk the wind was 'getting up' I was feeling cold
. For no reason other than playfulness while 'Bucket' romped I held the
stick up in front of me and it began to resonate as if to 'speak'. But
only when held up and then lightly between forefinger and thumb. Not when

Two miles away I heard chaotic screaming, chattering and laughter; a kind
of communal song. Little people at play in a proto-learning organisation.
How sound 'carries' is a matter of physics, how joy 'carries' is a matter
of metafizzic. The playground of South Moreton Infants and primary School.

I was not cold again until I dropped the stick and the school bell rang.

" Today is a good day. We look around like blind people who have recovered
their sight, and we look at each other. We have never seen each other in
sunlight; someone smiles. If it was not for the hunger!
For human nature is such that grief and pain, even simultaneously suffered -
do not add up as a whole in our consciousness, but hide the lesser behind the
greater, according to a definite law of perspective. It is providential and
is our means of surviving the camp. And this is the reason why so often in
free life one hears it said that man is never content. In fact it is not a
matter of human incapacity for a state of absolute happiness, but of an
ever-insufficient knowledge of complex nature of the state of unhappiness; so
that the single name of the major cause is given to all it's causes, which
are composite and set out in an order of urgency. And if the most immediate
cause of stress comes to an end, you are grievously amazed to see another one
lies behind; and in reality a whole series of others."- " At sunset, the
siren sounds, the end of work; and as we are all satiated, at least for a few
hours, no quarrels arise, we feel good, the Kapo feels no urge to hit us, and
we are able to think of our mothers and wives, which usually does not happen.
For a few hours we can be unhappy in the manner of free men." Primo Levi.

'Being there' is a state of mind. Walking and talking is a state of and Act
of mind.

"We had an incorrigible tendency to see a symbol and a sign in every event."
Primo Levi.

Do this whenever you can. We are all walking into a symboline age,

Yesterday I was walking in my small local town and felt compelled to buy a
book (that I quote at length- for which I make no apology- by Primo Levi) and
the lady serving me gave me a funny look;-( but no matter)

"Hurbinek was a nobody, a child of death, a child of Auschwitz, he looked
about three years old, no-one knew anything of him, he could not speak and he
had no name; that curious name Hurbinek, had been given to him by us, perhaps
by one of the women who had interpreted with those syllables one of the
inarticulate sounds that the baby let out now and again. He was paralyzed
from the waist down, with atrophied legs, as thin as sticks; but his eyes,
lost in his triangular and wasted face, flashed terribly alive, full of
demand, assertion, of the will to break loose, to shatter the tomb of his
dumbness. The speech he lacked, which no one had bothered to teach him, the
need of speech charged his stare with explosive urgency: it was a stare both
savage and human, even mature, a judgement, which none of us could support,
so heavy was it with force and anguish.
None of us, that is, except Henek; he was in the bunk next to me, a robust
and hearty Hungarian boy of fifteen. Henek spent half the day beside
Hurbinek's pallet. He was maternal rather than paternal; had our precarious
co-existence lasted more than a month, it is extremely probable that Hurbinek
would have learnt to speak from Henek; certainly better than from the Polish
girls who, too tender and too vain, inebriated him with kisses and caresses,
but shunned intimacy with him.
Henek on the other hand, calm and stubborn, sat beside the little sphinx,
immune to the distressing power he emanated; he brought him food to eat,
adjusted his blankets, cleaned him with skilful hands, without repugnance,
and he spoke to him in Hungarian naturally, in a slow and patient voice.
-After a week, - Hurbinek could say a word, what word? ‚^ņ¶It was difficult to
know. During the night we listened carefully. - A difficult word, not
Hungarian‚^ņ¶It was true‚^ņ¶from Hurbinek's corner came a word- it was not
admittedly always the same word, but it was certainly an articulated word: or
better, several slightly different articulated words experimental variations
on a theme, on a root, perhaps a name. -Hurbinek continued his stubborn
experiments for as long as he lived‚^ņ¶In the following days everybody listened
to him in silence, anxious to understand, and among us there were speakers of
all the languages of Europe; but Hurbinek's word remained a secret. - Perhaps
it was his name‚^ņ¶perhaps it meant "to eat" or "bread" ‚^ņ¶Hurbinek was perhaps
three years old born in Auschwitz and had never seen a tree‚^ņ¶ who fought like
a man, to the last breath, to gain entry into the world of men‚^ņ¶from which a
bestial power had excluded him; Hurbinek, the nameless, whose tiny forearm -
even his, bore the tattoo of Auschwitz; Hurbinek died in the first days of
March 1945, free but not redeemed. Nothing remains of him: he bears witness
through these words of mine."

Primo Levi . "If This is a Man - Truce." Abacus. ISBN 0-349-1001-6

Andrew Campbell


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